Global sportswear company Nike has found itself courting controversy for the second time in six months, with an online petition calling for the recall of one of its products due to it resembling the Arabic word for Allah.
The newly released Nike Air Max 270 sneakers were the target of the petition after Muslim shoppers raised concerns the logo on the bottom of the shoe was too similar to the word “Allah” when written in Arabic. Allah is the Arabic word for God.
Over 21,000 people have signed the petition so far, which says the word will “surely be trampled, kicked and become soiled with mud or even filth”.
“It is outrageous and appalling of Nike to allow the name of God on a shoe. This is disrespectful and extremely offensive to Muslims and insulting to Islam,” the petition reads.
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“We urge Nike to recall this blasphemous and offensive shoe and all products with the design logo resembling the word Allah from worldwide sales immediately.”
In a statement to Bloomberg, Nike said the logo was a take on the company’s ‘Air Max’ brand and was not intended to cause offence.
“Any other perceived meaning or representation is unintentional. Nike respects all religions and we take concerns of this nature seriously,” the company said.
This is far from the first time a Nike product has sparked controversy, with the company copping heat in September last year for an advertisement it produced with NFL star Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick is an unpopular figure in some American political circles due to his controversial choice to not stand for the national anthem at the start of football games. Nike used him as the face for a new campaign, telling shoppers “it’s only crazy until you do it”.
The campaign was both praised and panned by different groups, however, it was revealed the campaign was ultimately successful, leading to a 31% bump in the company’s sales.
Australian companies aren’t shy to controversial products requiring recalls either, with department store Target recalling numerous products over the past few years due to them promoting overly gendered stereotypes.
When undertaking a product recall, director of InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney said businesses should always be proactive when communicating with customers.
“It’s always best to be on the front-foot — take the necessary precautions and communicate empathetically and factually around the situation,” she said in 2017.
“It may be surprising to companies that when an issue is handled transparently, compassionately and professionally [the business] can actually gain an even stronger consumer following.”