INCIDENT UPDATE: After their first press release, Adidas continued to receive negative response and pressure from those who found the shoe caricature offensive. On April 26, 2006, Adidas released another announcement that it would pull the remaining shoes from the marketplace.
At the March general meeting, MANAA members discussed the controversy over a new Adidas sneaker with a caricature of a buck toothed, slant-eyed Asian. The image is reminiscent of those used in late 1800s and WWII to spread anti-Asian American sentiment.
At the March general meeting, MANAA members discussed the Adidas HUF/Twist sneaker featuring a buck-toothed, slant-eyed Asian caricature on the tongue of the shoe.
In a press release, Adidas defended its Adidacolor ‘Yellow’ Series HUF/Twist sneaker as a way to ‘celebrate self-expression, customization, and personalization,’ and ‘Art.’ The company does not plan to apologize or stop selling the sneaker.
Barry McGee aka Twist, the creator of the image writes: ‘Ray Fong is a character I developed well-over four years ago for an art installation in New York.’ McGee, a Chinese American, modeled the character after a picture of himself when he was eight years old, and never thought the image was ‘racist.’
However, Adidas is not displaying the image in an art exhibit. The company is selling the image on a sneaker sold to consumers, including youth, who don’t know McGee or his ‘art.’
Since the 1800s and throughout American history, Asian Americans have been portrayed in caricature and yellowface. Such depictions were reflective of the periods of anti-Asian sentiment. Even today, such images persist in the mass media and on products sold to consumers (see images below).
Viewed in its historical context, how can consumers see the Adidas shoe as anything other than a buck-toothed slant-eyed Asian caricature reminiscent of periods of anti-Asian racism in America?
Would you proudly display images of bucked-toothed slanted eyed Asian Americans as part of your ‘lifestyle?’
Send your comments to Adidas and cc: us as email@example.com when you write to the company. We’d like to hear your comments.
Adidas Head of Trend & Lifestyle Marketing/US