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Nike apologises for ‘insensitive’ Black and Tan sneakers… sort of

The sportswear manufacturer admits the ‘Black and Tan’ name was “insensitive”, but says it was “unofficially added by some”.

Updated, 11.02

NIKE HAS APOLOGISED – sort of – after facing sustained criticism for naming a line of sneakers after a British security force remembered for its attacks on Irish civilians during the War of Independence.

The sportswear giant released a new shoe, the ‘Nike SB Dunk Low Black and Tan’, to mark St Patrick’s Day – apparently an attempted reference to the alcoholic drink made by mixing Guinness (‘black’) with lager or pale ale (‘tan’).

For many Irish, however, the phrase ‘Black and Tan’ has a far more sinister connotation – being an informal name for the Royal Irish Constabulary’s Reserve Force, remembered for its relentless attacks on Irish civilians in the early 1920s.

The shoe had prompted ire from Irish emigrant groups, including the US-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, whose president Ciarán Staunton told IrishCentral.com said it was the equivalent of naming a shoe ‘the al-Qaeda’.

Time Magazine spotted one advertisement for the sneaker – apparently issued by Nike itself – which read:

‘Tis the season for Irish beer and why not celebrate with Nike. The Black and Tan sneaker takes inspiration for the fine balancing act of a Stout (Guinness) on top a Pale Ale (Harp) in a pint glass

Now, Nike has issued an apology for what it admitted was an “insensitive” name.

“We apologise,” the company said in a statement to Fox News. “No offence was intended.”

The apology was qualified, however, by an explanation that the offensive name wasn’t actually an official one – and had been unofficially added at some point in the advertising process.

The footwear, Nike’s statement said, “unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive.”

The sneakers were first publicised by Broadsheet.ie last week, where one reader recalled a similar furore in 2006 after Ben and Jerry’s gave a similar name to an ice cream which was later withdrawn.

As of this morning the sneakers no longer appeared on Nike’s online store. Nike could not be contacted to verify whether the shoes had been withdrawn from sale by the time of publication.

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