Nike pulls products in China after designer sparks social media outrage

Posted at 3:51 AM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 08:19:51-04

Nike has stopped selling some products in China after a fashion designer’s support for protests in Hong Kong sparked a social media backlash.

The US retail giant said in a statement Thursday that it had decided to remove some of its goods “based on feedback from Chinese consumers.”

“We have withdrawn from China a small number of products that were designed by a collaborator,” a Nike spokesperson told CNN Business.

The company did not respond when asked to provide more details.

The Financial Times reported Wednesday that Nike had pulled a line of sneakers made in partnership with Japanese streetwear label Undercover, which is led by designer Jun Takahashi.

Chinese retailer said in a statement on its official social media account that it would not stock Undercover x Nike Daybreak shoes after “an urgent notice issued by the Nike brand.”

Undercover faced sharp criticism over recent comments about Hong Kong protests against a controversial bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.

Many demonstrators feared the proposed law could be used to deport activists or political targets from Hong Kong, which for decades has operated under the policy of “one country, two systems.”

Earlier this month, Undercover posted a snap of the protests to its Instagram Story, captioned “No Extradition To China.” “Go Hong Kong,” it added in Chinese.

Some social media users in mainland China expressed outrage over the post. On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, some vowed to throw out their Nike sneakers. One user posted a photo of shoes in a trash can.

“There is one China,” another user wrote, adding that they were offended by the studio’s comments. The same user uploaded a photo showing the “Undercover” logo on a Nike shoe crossed out.

Undercover declined to comment.

China is one of Nike’s largest and fastest-growing markets. It’s also a key manufacturing hub, with about a quarter of Nike’s footwear and apparel being made there in the 2018 fiscal year.

This isn’t the first time foreign retailers have run into trouble in China.

Last year, US retailer Gap withdrew a product from the market after customers complained that a map of China had left out Taiwan and other islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.

Japan’s Muji was later fined by Shanghai authorities after it was discovered that the company had imported a batch of coat hangers wrapped in packaging that described Taiwan as a country.

Nike was lauded last year for making Colin Kaepernick the star of a major marketing campaign. Kaepernick and other NFL players had protested police brutality before games.