Nike To The Irish: Sorry We Named Black And Tan Sneakers After A Violent Paramilitary Group

Nike’s gone and stuck its Black and Tan foot right in its mouth where the Irish are concerned, naming a new sneaker after a drink popular in the U.S. and Britain that also happens to be the name of a violent paramilitary group in 1920s Ireland.

The SB Dunk Low, known also as “The Black and Tan” brings to mind mixing Guinness and Harp ale, something Americans and Brits love to order. What they might not know is that the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, known as the Black and Tans, were a violent group that terrorized civilians during Ireland’s civil war in the early part of the 20th century.

Nike has since apologized, saying, “We apologize. No offense was intended.” They’re not the first to make this gaffe — Ben & Jerry’s had their own accidentally offensive product back in 2006.

NPR’s WNYC.org spoke with Brian Boyd of the Irish Times, who explained why it’s so not cool of Nike to use the idea of Irish drinking and violence to market a shoe. He says that you would never order a Black and Tan in Ireland — not only because of the terrible associations with the group, but because real Irish don’t dilute their Guinness.

Beyond that, if you look inside the shoe, there’s an image of a pint of beer with two colors, black and tan. That’s also bad, says Boyd.

It’s how the Americans view Saint Patrick’s Day and view Irish culture and history. And it’s the very fact that some people are saying that these are beer-themed sneakers, that the only way to celebrate a national holiday of a country with a very rich culture and a very rich history and literature, et cetera, is to pour massive amounts of alcohol down your body.

Got that, Irish-Americans flaunting “Kiss Me, I’m Irish/Drunk” green T-shirts, flooding the streets and spewing vomit everywhere on St. Patrick’s Day while trying to pick fights with passersby? You’re. Doing. It. Wrong. And your Grandmother Donnelly would be ashamed of you, to boot.

Nike Kicks Up Controversy With ‘Black And Tan’ Shoes [WNYC.org]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. NORMLgirl says:

    So, I shouldn’t have purchased the Irish Car Bomb Stiletto’s for St. Patty’s day?

  2. BobOki says:

    I think this is a stretch. There should be an obvious “too soon” rule in play for any major group or disaster or loss in the industry and this one would be VERY MUCH PAST THAT TIME.

    Sorry guys, can’t name your new socks the Patras because there was this Cleo chick like 3 thousand years ago….. (names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent)

    • El_Fez says:

      So then I take it you have no problem with a new Ben and Jerry’s flavor: Nazi Nougat? It’s been 70 years, after all.

      • Jawaka says:

        I have a big problem with that.

        I’m not a fan of nougat.

      • Conformist138 says:

        Actually, thinking about it, there is an episode of Psych where Shawn and Gus go undercover as a modeling duo called “Black & Tan”.

        I’d guess very few Americans could identify “Black and Tan” as anything to do with Ireland. To us, it’s just two colors.

    • aikoto says:

      You are exactly right. Not every past sin needs to be remembered forever.

  3. Cat says:

    I’m Irish (Well, at least 25% with an Irish last name).

    I’m offended that the Irish are offended.

    • longfeltwant says:

      Me too. Seriously, that was a hundred years ago. Get over it. A ‘black and tan’ today is a beer concoction.

    • Leohat says:

      I’m offended that you’re offended that the Irish are offended. (did I miss an offended?)

      /Offended.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Well I think the only ones pissed are the Irish and they are reading way too much into this in my opinion; it’s shoes. My friends and I think of one thing when we think of a black and tan and that is BEER! And only BEER! A new girl I am dating and her dad is 100% Irish and even speaks gaelic so I’ll have to ask him opinion on this on Saturday.

      I had no idea what the 1920s uprising was about until this came into the news.

  4. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Who is Grandmother Donelly?

  5. crispyduck13 says:

    Am I the only one that orders a Black and Tan at the bar because I like the damn drink and not because I’m trying to associate all of Irish history and culture with alcohol?

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yep, you must be as I think everyone else orders and drinks them solely to celibrate the massacres.

  6. sirwired says:

    This seems like somebody being a bit touchy.

  7. dolemite says:

    This really seems to be stretching the PCness imo. A little-known military group from the 1920s? Cmon…Black and Tan isn’t just a drink, but also a color scheme name for many products. I had an RX8 with “Black and Tan” interior. So if Al Qaeda changed their name to Al Nike, I suppose Nike should just change their name to something else so people aren’t offended.

    • evilrobot says:

      My uncle’s name is Al and now I am offended.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I also drive a car with a “black and tan” interior, and I love it so much I will continue to do so on future vehicles. Hopefully that won’t involve incurring the wrath of several thousand offended Irish.

      • MichaelRyanSD says:

        I had an RX-8 with blank and tan leather too. Loved that freaking car, then I bought a sport bike and it ruined sport cars for me forever.

    • chiieddy says:

      It’s not so little known there. They consider the equivalent of naming something after the Third Reich. We might not consider it equivalent, but the sentiment to them is the same. I wouldn’t dare order an Irish Car Bomb in Ireland in there and I’d even hesitate about an Irish coffee.

  8. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    I so wish I could find the original clip of this, but I there was a bit from a Irish comedian that I feel fits well:

    “I was sitting in a pub in New York when a bloke next to me ordered an Irish Car Bomb. So I called the bartender over and ordered a 9/11. What? Too soon?”

    I think we tend to forget that there are things that have a historical significance in other places are thrown about here with little thought or care. Black & Tans and Irish Car Bombs being grand examples. I’m sure any American going into a pub in Ireland would be horrified if they had a 9/11 drink or similar…

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think it would depend on what was in a 9/11.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Black & Tan are two colors, so it’s harder to be offended the phrase is used. It’s not very… memopriable or unique. Which is why I don’t get the hatred toward the term.

      9/11 has no possible connotation except the September 11, 2001 attack. A little different, not that I really care either way.

      • chiieddy says:

        9/11 has connotation in my house besides a terrorist attack. It’s the day I become another year older.

      • babyruthless says:

        In Santiago, Chile, there is a major road called 11 de Septiembre, which commemorates the day that Pinochet overthrew the Allende government (which is, of couse, a whole ‘nother kettle of fish).

    • Sparkstalker says:

      The difference between ordering an Irish Car Bomb and a 9/11 drink, in my eyes, is that one is named after a device used in terrorism, while another is a specific terrorist attack. Now if there were a drink called the Bloody Friday (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Friday_%281972%29), I could see them being equivalent….

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    This has to be a stretch because Psych had an episode called “Black and Tan,” where Shawn and Gus went undercover as male models named Black and Tan. I don’t think anyone was yelling that the show was being insensitive. Maybe it was because the in-joke was about who was “Black” and who was “Tan.”

  10. mikec041 says:

    Bad enough i couldn’t tell people i have a Black and Tan Coonhound dog without offending some people i had to say it was a Black and Tan dropping the Coonhound now i can’t even say that.
    I guess I’ll just say she’s a hound (wonder who that will offend?).

  11. JennQPublic says:

    I’m confused. The sneakers are supposed to be drink-themed. Boyd says they don’t even drink that drink in Ireland, so other than an unintentional name similarity to a terrorist organization no one’s heard of, how are these shoes Irish-themed? Is anyone other than the offended guy making that link?

    • Lyn Torden says:

      Maybe they should rename “Black and Tan” to something else. The question now is which “they”.

    • Conformist138 says:

      I think it’s because the Black and Tan is Guinness with Irish Cream. The drink itself is supposed to be “Irish-inspired” with a sort of double-meaning in the name. Only, most of us never knew that or forgot a long time ago.

      The thing I find hilarious is that all over the world and even in the US, we mock ourselves. “Americans are stupid” “Americans are fat” “Americans are violent” “Americans are tactless slobs” etc and I doubt any of those are as tongue in cheek as the American views of Ireland. We KNOW that Ireland has a rich history, blah blah blah. It’s all good fun. Make fun of us, we make fun of you, it’s all good.

      Besides, I heard that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t even really a big deal in Ireland except for tourists. It’s become an Irish-themed party, just like Cinco de Mayo. It’s like someone in Ireland celebrating Labor Day by failing a geography test. The holiday is mostly meaningless, the stereotype is negative but still a bit humorous, and it’s nothing like what you would see in the US.

      • Kyle says:

        What?!? Whoever told you a black-and-tan was a mix of stout and irish cream? It’s a mix of two BEERS, almost like the article said. (See below for the correction.)

  12. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Well, my wife is Irish and some of her family were hunted and tortured by the Black & Tans back then. Today, her relatives in Ireland are still pretty sensitive on this topic. The intent here is clearly inoffensive, but I understand the reaction.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      Yeah, I have an ex who’s grandfather was killed by the Black and Tans. He actually has a monument in Cork. It’s still a bit of a touchy subject over there. Although the American attitude is a little more cavalier about things like this sometimes. I can see how an Irish Car Bomb could piss someone off, but we’d also probably come up with a drink called an IED.

  13. chemmy says:

    hmm, the shoes are black. and tan. no real stretch to the name. stop being sensitive. i might be able to support the argument if they called them derogatory names for blacks & Mexicans or something. But they are black and tan shoes.

    Why is everybody offended over everything? Bunch of pussies.

  14. eezy-peezy says:

    Killian’s Irish Red is obviously insulting to the small but persuasive Communist party in Ireland.

  15. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I always where my Black and Tans with my stylish Nazi overcoat.

  16. yabdor says:

    This is like the “men are too stupid to cook or do laundry” article. Do people really have nothing better to do than complain about this? Yuengling has been doing this for years: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/182/1381
    Where was all the indignant objection when this 1st came out?

    • Quake 'n' Shake says:

      Yuengling doesn’t export to Ireland.

      • yabdor says:

        So what? If they don’t like them no one is putting a gun to their heads to wear them.

        • Quake 'n' Shake says:

          Pissing of potential customer’s with offensive names is poor business. What’s offensive to one culture, can be innocuous to another. In this case, the term “Black & Tan” when tied with St. Patty’s day is offensive to some in Ireland, and virtually nobody in America.
          You’re trying to compare apples to oranges here.

          • yabdor says:

            But isn’t that the point? That you can’t do anything without pissing off someone. You can’t please everyone all the time. So why bother trying especially when it’s a bunch of whiny posers. If, as you say, it’s comparing apples and oranges why aren’t the Irish smart enough to understand that? And isn’t it precisely why they’re pissed that they’re trying to pound a apple into an orange mold? It’s a non issue. If you’re offended… .so what? Don’t buy them. You’re not owed anything.

  17. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Shouldn’t they also stop selling brown shirts in Germany?

  18. StarKillerX says:

    “BLOCK: Brian Boyd of The Irish Times has reported on some outrage over the shoe. But really, he says, it’s not about a shoe. It’s about a holiday.

    BOYD: It’s how the Americans view Saint Patrick’s Day and view Irish culture and history. And it’s the very fact that some people are saying that these are beer-themed sneakers, that the only way to celebrate a national holiday of a country with a very rich culture and a very rich history and literature, et cetera, is to pour massive amounts of alcohol down your body.”

    So if it’s not about the shoes how come your panties are in a bunch over the shoe?

    Claiming it’s some larger thing about the holiday is so much horseshit considering he’s not out ranting about green beer and all the various alcohol related St. Patty’s day parties/specials/events.

    • JennQPublic says:

      If anyone’s so stupid they actually think St. Patrick’s Day trappings are authentic Irish culture, the Irish probably shouldn’t care what they think anyway.

  19. JimmyKumbaya says:

    Someone should tell Yuengling that there’s another offended group out there we need to be all sensy about. Oy.

  20. Hoss says:

    Why is Nike marketing to beer drinkers?

  21. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    Now I know what not to wear on July 12th when shouting “Death to the Pope!”

    The three people that will get that will snicker, I hope…

  22. StupidSTUPIDLogin says:

    Oh, gag me. Anyone that freaking lived through that time period is either dead or 85% senile. Anyone who tries bringing it to light is just trying to start trouble.

  23. PhiTauBill says:

    But they are… black and tan. Maybe the should have used lowercase.

  24. qualia says:

    Eh, the Irish in America have probably totally assimilated, but back in my grandmother’s day? She may have been 3 generations removed from Ireland, but she was Irish. Not Irish-American, Irish. When HER grandparents came her, there were more people born in Ireland in the U.S. than there were in Ireland, they did NOT leave by choice, and even if they wanted to they were not allowed to assimilate until after JFK got the presidency. Her, her mom and her mom’s mom desperately wanted to go “home,” and I’m the first generation since the diaspora who was able to get the scratch together to even visit. My kids probably won’t even know what the big deal is.

    So the Irish can shut up a little bit about how Irish Americans choose to be Irish. We spend one day a year drinking about it, and the rest of the year living it.

  25. DanGarion says:

    What BS. My wife’s entire family is full blooded Irish they all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with drinking here in the states. And those that come from Ireland to visit participate in the festivities. Politically Correctness going overboard…

  26. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    As an Irishman…I can tell you we don’t forget, but we move on fairly quickly. This most certainly has to do with the diluting of our Guinness! You don’t mess with the Guinness! Would you wear shows called Old Milwaukee (mixture of piss and hops)?

  27. MrTreoZ says:

    Get over it. Let go of the past. Actually, you can hold on to the past, just don’t let similarities in modern culture offend you. It’s just a shoe (or Ice Cream) … it’s not going to hurt you. Why do people look so hard for things to whine about?

  28. Jemaine says:

    Just don’t sell the shoe in Ireland?

  29. rpjs says:

    “a violent group that terrorized civilians during Ireland’s civil war”

    Uh no, the Black and Tans were a British paramilitary force active during the Irish War of Independence. But yeah, they were violent and they did terrorize civilians, and we Brits should be ashamed of them.

  30. tbax929 says:

    Now I’m craving a Yuengling Black & Tan. Why, oh why, did I have to move out of their distribution area?

  31. MECmouse says:

    I’m now offended that I’ve been lumped into the group of ‘how the Americans view Saint Patrick’s Day and view Irish culture and history.” I don’t think I’ve ever had a drink on St. Patrick’s Day and in case anyone’s forgotten, we’ve had our own civil war. After living in the south since the age of 11 and being a yankee (less than 80 years if your math is bad) I don’t get offended when someone calls me one or makes a joke about one.

    In case someone needs told — It’s not always about YOU!

  32. Emily says:

    Maybe it’s because I’ve never heard of the drink, but it seems a fair enough name for a pair of shoes that are black and tan.

  33. erinpac says:

    Okay, the name may be unfortunate in Ireland due to the historical connection. However, every culture, country, religion & ethnic group has those sort of sensitive issues, and it is probably impossible to keep them all in mind world-wide, all the time, particularly the less recent ones and ones that borrow other innocuous references or names. As far as that goes, I’d just hope they would avoid the name if they sell them in Ireland, which the article doesn’t mention.

    However, what is with the St Patrick’s Day connection? Just the timing? I don’t see anything else to indicate that it is trying to associate Ireland with the typical sterotypes or anything – no green markings, no clovers, etc. It’s a shoe, with a beer symbol inside the shoe, and a name common to the drink and shoe colors. If anything that involves Guinness has to be interpretted as making some sort of commentary on the whole of Ireland, it would seem to be more in the viewer’s perspective than anything from the shoe itself… and is probably a futile position to take while the beer exists at all.

  34. Kyle says:

    The problem here really is one of ignorance. First, the ignorance of those in the U.S. (or Australia, I’ll have to ask my cousin there) of Irish descent who don’t know our own history and who perpetuate the worst stereotypes of Irish: loud, drunk, stupid.

    Ignorance #1: a bartender in a pub in D√∫lainn, Co. Claire, set me straight‚Äîhalf Guinness, half Harp is called a ‘half-and-half'; but if ye dare to mix Guinness with Bass or another English beer, you’re a traitor to Irish beer and it’s called a ‘black-and-tan’ after those Irish who were violent English loyalists.

    Ignorance #2: yes, we Irish have a collective shameful past. Some of our kith and kin killed each other over stupid ignorances like being a Catholic or Protestant when it had nothing to do with the faith but the society‚ÄîIrish or English. Some of our people have used explosives, killing the innocent in an ignorant attempt to gain political control over a piece of land. My own grandfather, when he worked in the coal mines in Wales at age 15, was asked to transport a bag of guns from England back to Ireland on the ferry he took. He was afraid for his life to say “no”, but after was so ashamed of what he did that for the rest of his life he denounced the violence and spoke respectfully of what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King did here with the idea of change using non-violent resistance, in my grandfather’s adopted country.

    Ignorance #3: St. Patrick’s Day is all about drinking and wearing green and thinking that doing horrible things like putting green dye in your Coors Light and trying to talk like that idiot leprechaun in the cereal commercial makes you Irish for the day. It’s about Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, which is simply a euphemism for those who followed Patrick who forcibly converted the heathen/pagan Celts to Christianity. (This embarrasses me as a pastor, but we learn to live with our past or we die from it.)

    St. Patrick’s Day, unfortunately, is not about celebrating the man who was kidnapped as a child in Gaul (France) enslaved in Ireland, escaped, and pursued an education in theology so that he could return to share the Good News of Christ with the people who had enslaved him.

    But that’s the biggest ignorance of all, isn’t it? Our society is willfully ignorant of the real meaning of so much in our world. No holiday is really about what it was intended, whether it’s Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day, St. Patrick’s Day, President’s Day, MLK Day‚Ķthe holidays are ALL about consumption, parties, sales at the stores, etc.