Sports

Making Nike Sweat

Jockbeat's newest hero is Jonah Peretti, who turned Nike's corporate creativity against itself in a stand against third-world exploitation labor. Peretti's protest made use of the swoosh brand's Nike iD Web site, which allows customers to "build your own" sneaker, complete with a word of your choice, or "iD," printed on the side. For his iD, Peretti selected "sweatshop," which generated the following e-mail exchange:

From:Personalize, NIKE iD
To:Jonah H. PerettiSubject:RE: Your NIKE iD order

Your NIKE iD order was cancelled for one or more of the following reasons: 1) Your Personal iD contains another party's trademark or other intellectual property. 2) Your Personal iD contains the name of an athlete or team we do not have the legal right to use. 3) Your Personal iD was left blank. Did you not want any personalization? 4) Your Personal iD contains profanity or inappropriate slang, and besides, your mother would slap us. If you wish to reorder your NIKE iD product with a new personalization please visit us again at www.nike.com Thank you, NIKE iD

From:Jonah H. Peretti
To:Personalize, NIKE iDSubject:RE: Your NIKE iD order

Greetings, My order was canceled but my personal NIKE iD does not violate any of the criteria outlined in your message. The Personal iD on my custom ZOOM XC USA running shoes was the word "sweatshop."Sweatshop is not: 1) another party's trademark, 2) the name of an athlete, 3) blank, or 4) profanity. I chose the iD because I wanted to remember the toil and labor of the children that made my shoes. Could you please ship them to me immediately?

Thanks and Happy New Year, Jonah Peretti

From:Personalize, NIKE iD
To:Jonah H. PerettiSubject:RE: Your NIKE iD order

Dear NIKE iD Customer, Your NIKE iD order was cancelled because the iD you have chosen contains, as stated in the previous e-mail correspondence, "inappropriate slang." If you wish to reorder your NIKE iD product with a new personalization please visit us again at www.nike.com

Thank you, NIKE iD

From:Jonah H. Peretti
To:Personalize, NIKE iDSubject:RE: Your NIKE iD order

Dear NIKE iD, Thank you for your quick response to my inquiry about my custom ZOOM XC USA running shoes. Although I commend you for your prompt customer service, I disagree with the claim that my personal iD was inappropriate slang. After consulting Webster's Dictionary, I discovered that "sweatshop" is in fact part of standard English, and not slang. The word means: "a shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages and under unhealthy conditions" and its origin dates from 1892. So my personal iD does meet the criteria detailed in your first e-mail. Your Web site advertises that the NIKE iD program is "about freedom to choose and freedom to express who you are." I share Nike's love of freedom and personal statement. The site also says that "If you want it done right . . . build it yourself." I was thrilled to be able to build my own shoes, and my personal iD was offered as a small token of appreciation for the sweatshop workers poised to help me realize my vision. I hope that you will value my freedom of statement and reconsider your decision to reject my order. Thank you, Jonah Peretti

From:Personalize, NIKE iD
To:Jonah H. PerettiSubject:RE: Your NIKE iD order

Dear NIKE iD Customer, Regarding the rules for personalization it also states on the NIKE iD Web site that "Nike reserves the right to cancel any Personal iD up to 24 hours after it has been submitted." In addition it further explains: "While we honor most personal iDs, we cannot honor every one. Some may be (or contain) others' trademarks, or the names of certain professional sports teams, athletes or celebrities that Nike does not have the right to use. Others may contain material that we consider inappropriate or simply do not want to place on our products. Unfortunately, at times this obliges us to decline personal iDs that may otherwise seem unobjectionable. In any event, we will let you know if we decline your personal iD, and we will offer you the chance to submit another." With these rules in mind we cannot accept your order as submitted. If you wish to reorder your NIKE iD product with a new personalization please visit us again at www.nike.com

Thank you, NIKE iD

From:Jonah H. Peretti
To:Personalize, NIKE iDSubject:RE: Your NIKE iD order

Dear NIKE iD, Thank you for the time and energy you have spent on my request. I have decided to order the shoes with a different iD, but I would like to make one small request. Could you please send me a color snapshot of the 10-year-old Vietnamese girl who makes my shoes? Thanks, Jonah Peretti

Nike did not respond to this final missive. But its spokespeople did confirm the exchange—while stressing the company's efforts to do away with sweatshops and child labor in its Asian plants. Many labor advocates, of course, would argue with those claims.

As would Peretti, a graduate student at MIT. Peretti was moved to perform this personal brand of culture jamming by what he called the "terrible irony" of the Nike iD program, which trumpets the consumer's ability to make their own shoe. "In reality," says Peretti, "you're just sending a to-do list to some workers so that they can make your shoes for you under these truly horrible conditions."

Peretti is quick to note that he's no hard-core activist—that there are more committed people out there fighting the good fight and fighting it hard. True enough, but for getting the word out there in creative and compelling fashion—the exchange is now making the rounds on the Internet via mass e-mailings—we salute Mr. Peretti.


Squash in the Box

Squash in the Box The accumulation of the city's scattered pockets of squash nerds all convened at Vanderbilt Hall—the side concourse in Grand Central Station—last week for the CSFB-Direct Tournament of Champions, featuring the top squashers in the game. Under one of the hall's massive bronze chandeliers, a clear acrylic box was assembled to enclose the tiny court, and bleachers that held 450 people rose up against the stone walls.

But the real scene was at the front end of the court, which faced the untold thousands of Metro North commuters who, shambling their way to the train, found themselves just a few feet from the action. "Big squash town," confided one gent out of the side of his mouth as we surveyed a crowd of pedestrians taking in a match.

The men's final brought the much anticipated matchup between Peter Nicolof Scotland, and Jonathon Powerof Canada, ranked one and two in the world. The trim, quiet Nicol plays Borgto Power's more clamorous McEnroe. Power is famous for his "whingeing"—English slang for incessant complaining.

Unfortunately, the high walls of the box effectively muffled the players' voices when contesting a call. So much so that, throughout the tournament, Nicol or (especially) Power would have to open the door at the rear of the court to give the ref a more direct earful. The time involved in fiddling with the slide bolt to unlatch the door tended to drain tension from the moment, which in turn made the players seem more solicitous than angry by the time they came out of the box to whinge. Amid this ongoing comedy, Nicol won (15-9, 15-12, 13-15, 13-15, 15-11).


Contributors: Alisa Solomon, Ramona Debs, Sinclair Rankin Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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