Chains, Whips, & Basketball Kicks


For all the appropriate clamor & kickback over Adidas’ JS Roundhouse Mids – the one with the shackles on them – I’ve noticed something very interesting. Hip Hop culture (more specifically speaking, the Black community) has been shackled to Jordan brand basketball shoes for years. Shortly after the shoes were introduced 1984-85 they became wildly popular, & I’m sure hundreds of people have died for them since, whether it was in line, waiting for the next pair to drop at midnight or at a bus stop just trying to make it home from school or work. This has been documented numerous times in my life, & the fact that the shoes are still priced to motivate senseless injury or death is much more appalling than a pair of unattractive shoes with chains on them.

I’ve seen rappers parading diamond-covered handcuffs in photos & videos, & there’s a rapper who sports a gigantic noose tattoo around his neck & chest. Plenty of times, stereotypes are uplifted & heralded in rap music. So, for me to be upset over the shackle kicks is like me being mad at George Zimmerman, but not mad at the hundreds, if not thousands of young, Black men who shoot & kill each other daily in urbanized, industrialized America. (& I’m absolutely disgusted by both parties.) In other words, if it’s a racist undertone insinuated within the shoe’s design, there are plenty of other places to start throwing stones prior to this one.

I’m glad no rappers are endorsing these abominations.

For what it’s worth, the term “chains & whips” hasn’t lost any counterculturalistic steam since the very first slave ship docked in Louisiana. From the slave trade to modern times, the overbearing weight of those two symbiotic objects still bears down heavily on many men of color. Nevertheless, we (& I use the term very loosely) kill each other, rape each other, abuse each other, & embarrass one another on a regular basis, & a pair of tacky basketball shoes couldn’t possibly be more detrimental to the thinktank than the last 10 rap songs that you’ve heard today, right? Those shoes didn’t call my mother, wife, & daughter “bitches” & “hoes,” or threaten to kill me & my friends just because “it’s time to ride on some niggas.” & as humorous as those examples are, they are equally as true.

Society has been desensitized & nothing is off limits. Aside from that, the digital revolution has reconstructed what’s considered political correctness. People are poorly educated on history & various cultures (thanks in large part to the informational clusterfuck called the ‘Net), so it should come as no surprise when more incidents like these occur in the future.

I’ve read a couple of articles that alluded to this entire campaign being Adidas’ sneaky way of capitalizing off of prison culture, but even that seems like a reach. It would be a different story if Adidas sponsored an episode of Beyond Scared Straight or First 48, but unfortunately they didn’t.

The shoes creator, Jeremy Scott, said he designed the shoe based on a toy monster (that I owned) that came with a pair of shackled handcuffs & that’s somewhat believable. Also believable is that maybe this whole fiasco was a cleverly devised publicity stunt. & if so, it looks like Adidas won for the moment, didn’t they?

Words by Tony Grands


2 comments on “Chains, Whips, & Basketball Kicks

  1. markdub7 says:

    I never got behind the story that the shoes were created to be some homage to slavery. I was actually waiting to come across a more reasonable explanation, and the toy My Pet Monster is pretty reasonable.


    • Tony Grands says:

      The company put money behind this. Money that could’ve fed a third world country for months, I’m sure. Dude should’ve partnered with the My Pet Monster people & rereleased the toy or something.

      The important thing, though, is that everyone knows who Jeremy Scott is now. His next shoe should be off the meter.


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