Nike Pulls Tattoo-Inspired Line After Outcry from Samoan Community


After flubbing the logo on a Carolina Panther’s shirt a few weeks back, Nike has found itself in the middle of another graphics issue. The sports apparel brand was forced to pull a new line of tattoo-inspired apparel for women from its physical and online stores after it was revealed that the featured graphics were actually a sacred Samoan tattoo. 

The graphics featured on a pair of leggings from its Pro Tattoo Tech Gear, which Nike describes as “inspired by tattoos from the southwest Pacific,” featured the sacred tattoo pe’a, which is worn only by men. As a result, consumers started a petition and left scathing comments on the brand’s Facebook page. The New Zealand Herald reports that Pacifica blog sites “attracted hundreds of comments,” most of them negative, after Nike released the line. “To the outside world it’s just a design,” said one. “But to my Polynesian people, it’s sacred.”[more]

“It’s disturbing,” said Su’a William, the MP of Mangere, a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, where a number of Samoans live. “This is a treasure that is held dear to the Samoan community. The patterns have a spiritual meaning that come from one’s family and ancestors. This just cheapens and belittles all of that. It’s a total disregard of cultural protocol.”

Nike reacted fairly swiftly, pulling the line from retail and issuing an apology: “The Nike tattoo tech collection was inspired by tattoo graphics,” the company said, according to TheDrum. “We apologize to anyone who views this design as insensitive to any specific culture. No offence was intended.”