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what's in a name

Redskins Owner Vows to Keep Name Intact, but Oneida, Regulators May Have Other Plans

Posted by Mark J. Miller on October 10, 2013 07:12 PM

Plenty of people have been trying to get the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name for decades, but team owner Daniel Snyder delivered what all should regard as a pretty sound statement denying such a request.

In the last few days, “NFL officials agreed to meet with the Oneida Indian Nation," which had purchased radio ads in the team's market urging Snyder to drop the name, the Washington Post reports. Even President Obama threw his voice into the mix, noting that he’d consider changing the name if he were the owner. The Oneida staged a protest Monday in Washington and the National Congress of American Indians released a poster that showed baseball hats featuring racist team names such as the "New York Jews" and "San Francisco Chinamen."Continue reading...


French Fashion Brand Sparks Social Media Firestorm With 'No Chinese' Rule [Updated]

Posted by Abe Sauer on October 1, 2012 10:06 AM

One of the most famous landmarks of colonial era Shanghai was a sign that hung in The Bund park reading "No Dogs and Chinese." That sign never existed, although the urban legend persists because such rules did exist. Now, nearly 100 years later, with Chinese consumers growing more powerful every year, a luxury fashion designer has opened old wounds with a statement so colonially racist it would be comfortable on the streets of the French Concession circa 1921.

In a statement to WWD, the founder of high-end fashioner Zadig & Voltaire said that its new boutique hotel slated to open on the Left Bank in Paris in 2014 "won’t be open to Chinese tourists." Outrageous, for sure. But does the sentiment reveal an uncomfortable relationship between the world's haute fashion houses and their nouveau riche Chinese patrons? Just a week after D&G needed to explain its "Moorish" earrings, Thierry Gillier, fashion brand Zadig + Voltaire's founder, told WWD of the brand's new Paris hotel:

“It will be a slightly private hotel, not open to everybody, with 40 rooms. We are going to select guests. It won’t be open to Chinese tourists, for example. There is a lot of demand in Paris — many people are looking for quiet with a certain privacy.”

Through the weekend the story lit up Chinese social media networks including Weibo. Needless to say, reactions were swift and scathing.Continue reading...

brands under fire

D&G "Racist" Earrings an Homage or Just Plain Offensive?

Posted by Abe Sauer on September 28, 2012 10:35 AM

Dolce & Gabbana's spring/summer 2013 runway show had barely finished parading on the catwalk in Milan on Sept. 24 when the luxury fashion brand found itself generating buzz ... less for the clothes than for the accessories — specifically, the earrings dangling from the models' lobes. Depicting an African American woman's fruit-carrying head as earrings smacked of colonialism to some, and just plain offensive to others, and not just women and people of color.

D&G, accused of "romanticising slavery" and worse, turned to Vogue to publish the brand's explanation in an online article titled "Dolce & Gabbana Explains Controversial Jewellery." That's fairly ironic, considering Vogue has been behind both the NBA star LeBron James "King Kong" cover controversy and raked for a reference to "a pair of large, gold hoops as 'slave earrings'."

But did D&G's own show add the ultimate irony of its excuse? And what did they think would be the response?Continue reading...

brands under fire

Adidas Sparks Uproar With Shackled "Slavery Shoe" [Updated]

Posted by Shirley Brady on June 18, 2012 05:26 PM

adidas is under fire after posting a picture of its upcoming JS Roundhouse Mids on the adidas Originals Facebook page. JS is short for Jeremy Scott, the provocative designer who has had a longstanding association with adidas Originals, while the shoe is part of his upcoming Fall/Winter collection for the brand, which is slated for release in August.

Unlike the uproar over Nike's Black and Tan shoe back in March, it's not the colors or name that's offending, but the rubber shackles attached to them that remind some observers (such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson) of the ankle chains that imprisoned African American slaves. That the "adidas" name is also part of the "shackles" is raising hackles (and heckles).

Even so, the brand defended the design and the designer.

"The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott's outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery," a spokesperson for the brand commented about the Facebook photo, which has been removed. "Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted ... Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful."

Scott, meanwhile, has deflected criticism of the so-called "slavery sneaker" on Twitter. Update: The designer later tweeted a link to a picture of "My Pet Monster," a plush toy wearing "magic cuffs" released by American Greetings in 1986 that spawned a one-season ABC cartoon series, as the inspiration for the shoe.

Nevertheless, despite initially defending the designer, adidas is pulling the shoe, stating: "We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."

See Scott's Fall/Winter 2012 adidas Originals collection that included the shoe (along with a close-up) below, and let us know what you think in the comments.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Popchips Minority Owner Ashton Kutcher in Trouble for Minority Portrayal

Posted by Shirley Brady on May 2, 2012 08:27 PM

Popchips "culture czar" Ashton Kutcher, who owns a minority stake in the company, gets in makeup for a new ad campaign for the snack brand, creating four characters for a mock dating website ("World Wide Lovers") introductory video (watch below). The online, outdoor and social campaign is costing about $1.5 million, according to the New York Times.

It's a different kind of "minority" stake for Kutcher that's causing a stir: Donning "brownface" makeup to portray "Raj," a 39-year-old Bollywood producer, landed the actor and his partners at the brand in hot water today, with accusations of racism (including by an offended Anil Dash) roiling the social web — but the company is defending the move.Continue reading...

place branding

Can a Town Rebrand From Its Racist Past?

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 28, 2012 04:36 PM

American civil rights tourism is starting to be big business. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is in the midst of a $27 million reno that’ll be finished in 2013 and the Smithsonian is opening a $500 million National Museum of African American History in D.C. in 2014, the same year that the $100 million National Center for Civil & Human Rights is set to open in Atlanta. 

All that said, there are still some places that haven’t quite gotten to the museum-building part yet and are still just trying to just shake their own awful pasts. One Arkansas town that ran most of its black residents out of town back in 1905, burning down homes and shooting out windows, is hoping to let bygones be bygones and recast itself. The small town of Harrison, Arkansas, is now trying to rebrand itself now as a place that’s open to minorities of all stripes, the Associated Press reports.

In a town of 13,000, there are currently only 34 visible minorities that currently live in Harrison, but the town would like to draw more residents and businesses regardless of skin color, the AP adds. Town leaders have created a task force on race relations, invited a civil-rights speaker come in, and printed posters about the city’s past difficulties. But is it all whitewashing?Continue reading...

sports in the spotlight

FIFA Gets Red Card for Stepping In It Off the Field

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 17, 2011 05:09 PM

When Qatar was awarded the first World Cup to ever take place in the Middle East, some eyebrows were raised because, well, it’s going to be 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade when the games take place during the summer months and the country only has one stadium that was deemed worthy enough to use.

Still, the country has until 2022 to work out these problems. Part of its bid promised that it would build nine of the most gorgeous stadia you’ve ever seen. They will be air-conditioned to ensure the good feeling and health of the players and fans alike. Also, some are promised to be modular so that they can be taken apart after the Cup and sent along to developing countries so they can enjoy them along with their Texas Rangers 2011 World Series champs T-shirts.

So who is going to build these lovely places? The BBC reports that “over 90% of Qatar's workforce is made up of foreign migrant workers, many of them from South and East Asia,” and several labor unions argue that the workers are not being treated humanely and that, in fact, it's a modern-day form of slavery.Continue reading...

logo no-no

Wisconsin High School Loses Offensive Mascot

Posted by Mark J. Miller on July 22, 2011 10:00 AM

It’s not really clear who or what the students of Wisconsin’s Osseo-Fairchild will be rooting for when the next sports season gets rolling, but one thing one is very much known: They won’t be rooting for the Chieftains.

Further to our story last month, WQOW reports that the school district “is completing the process of permanently removing the ‘chieftain’ logo and nickname from the district.”

In July of last year, the district was given 365 days to get rid of the logo and mascot by the Department of Public Instruction.

As of July 17th, “any reference to the ‘chieftain’ logo or nickname is no longer allowed by the district," WQOW notes.

It looks like the bill that Republican state representative Mary Lazich was proposing that would have allowed schools to take until July of next to make the transition (in order to deal with any financial stress involved, of course) didn’t go anywhere.

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