Nike had better start hiring a few history majors. Or Irish Americans. Last week, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the swoosh released a line of sneakers called Black and Tans. Ouch.
Company officials apparently thought this was a paean to the popular pub offering made by mixing dark stout and pale ale. A quick click of the mouse would have dialed it back one more step. The Black and Tans, from the color of their uniforms, were murderous and poorly disciplined British paramilitary thugs sent to Ireland in 1920-22 to suppress Irish revolutionaries in the War of Independence.
The Tans killed civilians, burned cities, including much of central Cork, and otherwise conducted themselves in such an appalling fashion that they embarrassed many in England. In Ireland, where the past is part of the present, the Tans are still synonymous with merciless butchery. It was as if Nike had come out with a Galloping Gestapo line of shoes for the French.
A quick Google search would have turned up Ben & Jerry’s apology after it came out with a Black and Tan ice cream in 2006.
Nike apologized immediately; the error was obviously inadvertent. Still, there is something wrong with our education system when that which is known to any bartender in South Boston has escaped the attention of two major and supposedly enlightened corporations.
Also, if only the "Black and Tan" drink existed, associating a product name with Irish drinking is itself demeaningly stereotypical.
-- The Courant of Hartford (Conn.)