Religious & Litigious: Nike Claps Back at the Manufacturer of Lil Nas X's 'Satan Shoes' for Copyright Infringement

Lil Nas X performs onstage during the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Lil Nas X performs onstage during the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo: Kevin Mazur for The Recording Academy (Getty Images)

Nike, not like this. We live in a Hypebeasting, HighSnobiety world in which collabs are as ubiquitous as TikTok dance routine appropriation, but apparently, referencing the devil (if such a thing even exists) is a bridge too far for Nike. In the past few pays, the sportswear juggernaut has borne some of the “Satanic Panic” backlash against Lil Nas X and streetwear brand MSCHF’s ‘Satan Shoes’—a customized version of the Nike Air Max 97 featuring a pentagram pendant, an embroidered nod to Bible verse Luke 10:18 (which chronicles Satan’s fall from heaven), and a much-hyped drop of human blood. The limited release of 666 pairs, released as a promotional component of Lil Nas X’s latest single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” instantly sold out when they dropped on Monday, priced at $1,018 each.

Advertisement

Though pearls were clutched and praise given in seemingly equal measure online, Nike instantly issued a statement disavowing its association with the collab, stating: “We do not have a relationship with [Lil] Nas X or MSCHF. Nike did not design or release these shoes and we do not endorse them” (h/t NBC News).

OK, good to know, and thanks for the clarification. But apparently, the brand decided a statement isn’t enough, further driving the point home by filing a federal trademark infringement lawsuit on Monday.

Per NBC:

Nike filed the suit—Lil Nas X was not named as a defendant—after many people said they believed it was involved with the shoes, even though it released a statement over the weekend saying it had nothing to do with them.

The lawsuit argues that Nike must maintain control over its brand “by setting the record straight” about what products bear its distinctive “swoosh” logo.

“In fact, there is already evidence of significant confusion and dilution occurring in the marketplace, including calls to boycott Nike in response to the launch of MSCHF’s Satan Shoes based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorized or approved this product,” the lawsuit says.

In a statement after the complaint was filed, Nike reiterated that it is in no way affiliated with the Satan Shoes.

“We don’t have any further details to share on pending legal matters,” Nike said. “However, we can tell you we do not have a relationship with Lil Nas X or MSCHF.”

MSCHF has yet to issue a response to requests for comment by NBC, but while Lil Nas X isn’t currently a co-defendant in the suit, he issued a typically trolling response of his own, allowing a SpongeBob SquarePants clip to say he “was just kidding...c’mon.”

Advertisement

It’s all fun and games until someone gets offended, we guess. But c’mon, Nike, which did us so proud with its steadfast (and highly profitable) support of Colin Kaepernick—but also went full double-standard in its treatment of U.S. Olympic hammer-thrower Gwen Berry, not to mention its infamous 2019 callout by several female athletes for their maternity policies. Is this 666 pairs of shoes really a hill you want to crucify yourselves on? Especially considering the fact that, as pointed out by The Verge, no such lawsuit seems to have been filed when MSCHF released a Jesus-themed riff on their shoes in 2019.

Advertisement

“MSCHF is deceiving consumers into believing that Nike manufactures or approves of the Satan Shoes,” Nike’s complaint claims, according to The Verge. “Consumers’ belief that the Satan Shoes are genuine Nike products is causing consumers to never want to purchase any Nike products in the future.”

Well, as we recall, a lot of those same consumers were threatening to burn their Nikes after the brand took a stand for kneeling, and that worked out just fine. Lil Nas X may have been “just kidding,” but the selective outrage—especially in response to a very pointed and pretty obvious statement by a young, Black, openly gay rapper about his right to exist free of persecution from religious institutions of political hypocrisy—is telling. Frankly, Satanists might have grounds for their own grievance, since this is clearly discriminatory, but we’ll just leave that right there because frankly, it should never have been this deep.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?

DISCUSSION

shindean
shindean

Aren’t there like...hundreds of collaboration shoes that all have the Nike Swoosh on them?
So Nike only loves the clout when it’s (supposedly) family friendly.
If I were Lil Nas X, I’d just make a new shoe with Nikes that read: GAY AF!
Let’s see them sue for those during pride month.