June 11, 2019
Nike is withdrawing its new version of the classic Air Force 1 shoe meant to celebrate Puerto Rico in light of objections from the Guna people, an indigenous group in Panama. Panamanian law recognizes indigenous groups’ rights to their intellectual property and Nike failed to secure the Guna people’s permission to use their traditional swirling, multicolored “Mola” design on the limited edition shoe.
Nike issued a statement: “We apologize for the inaccurate representation of the design origin for the Nike Air Force 1 ‘Puerto Rico’ 2019. As a result, this product will no longer be available.”
A lawyer for the Guna people said that they were not just seeking the shoe’s withdrawal, but also compensation, claiming that the indigenous group’s image was damaged as a result of its use. A traditional Guna leader, Belisario Lopez, stated that the group had no objections to the Mola symbol being commercialized but were angered that it was done without consultation.
Industry sources reportedly indicated that the launch of the shoe was intended to coincide with the Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 9, 2019.
Authors: Larissa Fulop and Shadi Varkiani