November 24, 2009

An Opposition to 'Combat'

A couple of posts ago, I paid some attention to Nike's Pro Combat Uniforms, noting the overwhelming militaristic sense of the name "Combat" especially in regards to the truck on Virginia Tech's campus reading: "Prepare for Combat."

Now, it seems that I've overlooked Nike's plan to implement "Combat" uniforms in other sports.  In this case, the notable example is with regards to basketball...specifically, Lebron James.

Over the past few years in the city of Cleveland, Nike has used ten stories of an office building near Quicken Loans Arena to display Lebron James murals/advertising.  The most recent of these billboards features "Jesus" Lebron, arms spread wide with the tag line "We Are All Witnesses."

Just this week, Nike proposed a new advertisement for the space.  As part of the "Combat" line of apparel, the new mural echoes the VT truck and implores us to "Prepare for Combat."

Yet the proposed billboard was rejected by the Cleveland Planning Commission because they believe the new billboard represents pure advertising while the current billboard is civic art.  According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article, CPC leaders not only thought Nike was "going over the line to market a Nike product," but were also dismayed by "the lack of a 'Cleveland' or 'Cavaliers' presence on the mural."

More importantly, however, commission Chairman Tony Coyne "said he felt the 'combat' reference is also inappropriate, at a time when U.S. soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq."

It is interesting to see Nike's militarism recognized and rejected in Cleveland, but accepted and celebrated in Blacksburg, VA (and other college campuses around the nation).  The truck seems so much more overt, and yet VT officials and students seemed to accept it so readily.  Does this have more to do with the nature of the relationship between Nike and its affiliated universities?  Can the truck be called 'civic art' in any way?  I'm not sure, but I do see it as encouraging that Cleveland commissioners took a stand, for Cleveland and for the nature and idea of sport: a game and just a game.

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