Nike won't release a version of its Air Force 1 shoe meant to celebrate Puerto Rico, after an indigenous group in Panama objected to one of its traditional designs being used on the sneaker.
The company said in a statement: "We apologize for the inaccurate representation of the design origin for the Nike Air Force 1 'Puerto Rico' 2019. As a result, this product will no longer be available."
Nike announced it was scrapping plans to launch the sneaker Tuesday. The shoe was to have been released in June.
The Guna people, one of seven indigenous groups in Panama, live mainly on the Caribbean coast and have traditionally used the swirling, multicolored "Mola" design. The Gunas said in a statement that the company had not asked permission to use the design. Panamanian law recognizes indigenous groups' rights to their intellectual property.
"We are not against our 'mola' being commercialized. What we oppose is it being done without consulting us first," said Belisario López, the traditional leader of the Guna Yala community.
López said the design represents "Mother Earth, because the design is based on everything that is nature."
But, he noted the design "is a dress (style) exclusively for women."
The design also prompted social media users to call out Nike for misusing the "Mola" design.
"@Nike Guys, these are cool sneakers, and I get the reference to the Coquí frog, but this pattern and design are NOT from Puerto Rico! It's a design called MOLA, made by the Guna people in Panama and parts of Colombia. It is a HUGE failure of your research department," @IsaacLarrier tweeted.
Meanwhile, on Instagram, @djclarkkent shared similar sentiments.
"This is called a “Mola” • It is a Panamanian art form. You can find it anywhere in my home country, PANAMA • Respectfully, This is not a part of Puerto Rico’s rich culture. • Though we are both Spanish speaking people, we have different traditions, art & cultural expressions. When celebrating one, please do proper research. These things should not be confused. •," his post read.
In the midst of the controversy Nike found itself in, Latin singer Luis Fonsi and basketball player Carlos Arroyo both posed with another version of Nike sneakers featuring the Puerto Rican flag and color motif.