By Ken Reed

Nike is expected to release a new LeBron James shoe this fall with a price tag of approximately $300. In doing so, they will be exploiting the sports hero worship mindset of millions of young Americans, including poor inner city youth. (Who else is the target for these shoes? It certainly isn’t middle-aged males.)

As they prepare for the launch of their $300 sneaker, Nike is whining about a drop in their gross profit margin from 44% to 43%. It’s so hard to feel sorry for Nike while average Americans struggle in an ongoing recession – and when considering that the typical small business gross profit margin in this country is between 25% and 35%.

Of course a $300 sneaker — manufactured overseas, potentially in sweat shop conditions (Nike has a track record with sweat shops) — targeted at impressionable teenagers would go a long way toward boosting Nike’s profit margin.

Gouging is nothing new for Nike. The Oregon company has been gouging consumers since the advent of its Air Jordan line of sneakers in 1985. But the gouging has intensified in recent years. Consider that Nike is expected to unveil a new Air Jordan in December for $185, a 33% increase in price over the ’85 model when adjusted for inflation.

Targeting the nation’s youth with a $300 LeBron shoe is simply unethical. It can also spark violence among teenagers who see the LeBron shoes as an out-of-reach status symbol.

“It’s the consumer’s choice after all, but it’s insensitive to market a $300 shoe to kids and teenagers as people are going back to school and struggling to buy school supplies,” says Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “This is not food, this is not rent, it’s a single pair of sneakers.”

Nike’s move toward a $300 basketball shoe is more than just insensitive. It’s one more example in the company’s long history of a profits-at-all-costs approach to business.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


For more on League of Fans’ past work regarding Nike & LeBron James, see:

Nader and League of Fans Ask LeBron James to Support Workers’ Rights in Nike Factories – December 4, 2003

Nader & League of Fans ask LeBron James to help workers in Nike factories – March 21, 2007


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