Nazi-Founded Shoemaker to Convince Schools Their Names Are Offensive

Nazi-Founded Shoemaker to Convince Schools Their Names Are Offensive

On Friday President Obama announced that shoemaker Adidas would be offering U.S. schools funding if they opt to change their Native American branding and concluded by chiding, “I don't know if Adidas made the same offer to a certain NFL team here in Washington, but they might want to think about that as well.”

In a press release Adidas’ North American Group’s president Mark King explained that his European-based company was taking this step because, “…it's important to create a climate that feels open to everyone who wants to compete.”  It goes on to explain thatOf the more than 27,000 high schools across the United States, approximately 2,000 of them use names that cause concern for many tribal communities.”  Beyond the odd pairing of the German shoemaker to an infamous Native American casino mogul (Ray Halbritter the other high-profile benefactor of Obama’s anti-Redskin campaign) is the overwhelming irony behind this “cultural sensitivity” campaign. 

While many Native Americans felt culturally victimized by this campaign as their public symbols and culture are being systematically eliminated, others were shocked that Adidas would have the temerity to push for school name changes considering the genocidal history attached to the Adidas name.

Indeed the $17.1 Billion Company was founded and named after Democratic Socialist Adolph “Adi” Dassler both a member of the Nazi Party and supplier to the Wehrmacht or the three branches of the German military forces.  While “Adi” famously signed “Heil Hitler” to his letters then, his company today sponsors North Korean and Saudi Arabian sports teams in nations ranked least free by civil liberties “watchdog” Freedom House. 

So why would a company with such an incendiary namesake while simultaneously sharing a bed with basket case human rights violators wish to put everything on the line in associating itself with a name-change campaign which, in the case of Redskins, is known to not be a problem to 90 percent of Native Americans in the only valid poll ever conducted? 

Our answer may be found in the January Forbes story entitled “We need to look cool again in the U.S.”. The story set pits King in fixing the company’s U.S. business model which was “…in shambles.”

King explained that turning it around in a short time was “the top priority for Adidas” where generating “double-digit sales” was imperative.  King claimed he was going to get into the game quickly by signing hundreds of sponsorships with NFL players; running non-traditional ad campaigns and increasing exposure all designed to get ‘back in the conversation’.  To kick-start his effort King’s immediately transplanted the Adidas design team from Europe to the company’s Oregon office saying, “Until we look cool to an American kid, we aren’t going to sell any gear to them”.

So, was partnering with the President on a name change campaign a wise move in line with their business goals? Is it the right campaign to generate exposure, ramp up conversation and deliver double digit sales? 

Well, with Oregon acting as a social surrogate of the United States, we can perhaps get a feel the attitudes concerning King’s campaign. Simply, is it a sensitive, needed and welcomed name change campaign as framed by Adidas and Obama, or is it a malevolent continuation of cultural eradication began 100s of years ago as framed by others? 

A mere 25 miles up Highway 26 from Adidas’ brilliant chrome-and-glass Portland design headquarters is the Banks School District and the home of the Braves where they polled 1,038 residents on keeping their name where a whopping 94.7 percent voted “NO” to changing their name and image. Maybe the marketing folks at Adidas missed this or perhaps they thought the local natives would reflect their campaign’s goals.

In May, when Oregon State claimed they would remove  Native American names and themes from schools, even when those names are positively supported by local tribes, Native Americans spoke up. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians said “the decision was made by people who have no knowledge of Indian communities” and does nothing to address “the real issues of racism.” In the same story, the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde commented that “its council is very disappointed that they've trampled our sovereignty and have ignored something that our tribes in Oregon have been calling for years, which is a curriculum that accurately describes Oregon's Native history.” 

Hmmmm?  It seems the Adidas “name change” business plan may generate exposure and ramp up conversation, but King’s lasting image may not be one of cultural benevolence as he hopes, but one more aligned with famously clueless Sgt. Shultz – a character type Adloph “Adi” Dassler may have outfitted. 

So, is Adidas’ approach going to deliver the biggest public relations nightmare since the unveiling of “New” Coke? Part of the success or failure will depend on how the competition responds and, in looking at Adidas’ prime competitor Nike - also in Portland - we immediately see stark contrasts.

Unlike Adidas, Nike actively promotes and encourages public Native American culture via its aptly named Seventh Generation “N7” program which is committed to creating early positive experiences in sport and physical activity for Native American and Aboriginal youth in North America”.  

Moreover, Nike’s sage use of the term “Seventh Generation” leverages the Constitution of the Iroquois Nation (borrowed heavily in creating the U.S. Constitution) which explains the N7 philosophy as one where adherents  have seven layers of “thick skin” which promote a defense against anger, offensive and criticism while loathing self-interest.  It summarizes:

“Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground, the unborn of the future Nation.”

With such clear differences in philosophies, marketing, engagement and research, Adidas may not gain the shoe market share they’re hoping to despite their intimate handiwork in helping the U.S. President.  However, if Adidas’ “cultural genocide”-campaign fails in the U.S. (as the Nazi’s did in the 1940s) there are other politically expedient pre-2016 bandwagon election campaign efforts they could help with.

For instance “Adi’s” own boot-wearing German Army made it a habit to cross borders illegally thus, in 2015, Adidas could sponsor an upbeat campaign where national borders are re-branded as insensitive and non-inclusive just as they’ve claimed Native American school names are. Likewise, Adidas financial aid could be offered to affected communities wishing to tear down border walls while providing free shoes to those willing to make the attempt at crossing soon to be “wall-free” regions.

In setting a new bar in footwear activism Adidas has earned a “track record” where they can now “run” with other - even more politically poignant – government-backed social engineering opportunities. And, with such rich marketing choices available which reflect 1940’s German values into a contemporary U.S. market they may actually achieve their much-needed U.S. market splash. King’s statement, “Until we look cool to an American kid, we aren’t going to sell any gear to them” uncannily resonates like something a party youth group recruiter might have said in 1938 Berlin.  Well, Mr. King…Viel Glück (Good Luck) with that but I’ll stick with Nike’s N7 thanks. 

Story by Andre Billeaudeaux

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Susan McDonald wrote:
why is the small minority's able to effect the majority---- another reason for change in presidential office---and a good reason for buying stock in Nike--- more light should be placed on these incidents---

November 12, 2015 @ 10:05 PM

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