Nike has launched a lawsuit against a Brooklyn art collective named MSCHF over a controversial pair of shoes, called “Satan Shoes”, that feature in rapper Lil Nas X’s newest music video.
The shoes were released as a tie-in with the song, and music video, for Montero (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X, which was released on Friday 26 March.
In collaboration with the rapper, MSCHF released 666 pairs of shoes on Monday, which sold out in less than a minute.
The shoes, which are modified Nike Air Max 97s, are being sued over copyright infringement by the athletic brand.
What are the shoes - and why are they controversial?
Nike is suing the company behind the shoes, MSCHF Product Studio Inc, stating that it infringed on and diluted its trademark as the shoes themselves are customised Nike Air Max 97 sneakers featuring the iconic Nike tick.
Lil Nas X partnered with MSCHF to launch the limited edition shoes and cost $1,425 a pair.
The shoes are embellished with a pentagram, 60cc of ink, and “one drop of human blood” in the sole. They also feature a reference to bible verse Luke 10:18 on the side, which says: “He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”.”
In the music video for Montero (Call Me By Your Name), Lil Nas X can be seen sliding down a pole from heaven to hell. The devil can be seen wearing the Satan Shoes.
Why is Nike suing?
In the lawsuit, Nike said that the shoes were produced “without Nike’s approval and authorisation” and that the company is “in no way connected with this product”.
Speaking to internet fact checking site Snopes, MSCHF founding team member Daniel Greenberg said that the company buys the shoes from Nike, and then MSCHF artists make their own creative modifications before selling them.
Nike states in the lawsuit: “MSCHF and its unauthorised Satan Shoes are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike.
“In fact, there is already evidence of significant confusion and dilution occurring in the marketplace, including calls to boycott Nike in response to the launch of MSCHF’s Satan Shoes, based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorised or approved this product.”
The shoe giant asked the court to immediately stop MSCHF from fulfilling its orders of the sold out shoes, and also requested a jury trial in order to seek damages.
In the documents, it states that Nike is “entitled to recover from MSCHF the actual damages Nike has sustained, is sustaining, and/or is likely to sustain as a result of MSCHF’s wrongful acts”.
Has MSCHF sold Nike shoes before?
In 2019, the Brooklyn based creative label released Jesus Shoes, which were, again, customised white Air Max 97 Nike sneakers.
This pair of shoes were filled with 60cc of water that had been sourced from the River Jordan and then blessed, allowing wearers to, theoretically, walk on Holy Water.
They also featured a red insole that was scented with Frankincense, a steel crucifix on the shoelaces, Matthew 14:25 inscription on the toe and light blue and red colour accents.
Nike did not object to the sale of these shoes, and did not sue over them.
Has Lil Nas X acknowledged the lawsuit?
The rapper, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit and who is not being sued, posted a fake apology video on his official YouTube channel, titled “Lil Nas X Apologizes for Satan Shoe”.
Lil Nas X starts the video by talking to the camera and holding up one of the shoes, and says: “Okay guys, I see everybody’s been talking about this shoe, and I just want to come forward and say-”
The video then cuts to his newest music video, Montero (Call Me By Your Name), where his character is giving Satan a lap dance.
In the comments of the video, Lil Nas X posted a link to the “real apology”, which simply leads to the full music video for his new song.
He also posted a series of Tweets making a joke out of the lawsuit.
In one Tweet, he wrote, “Me and satan on the way to Nike headquarters”, with a video of two people in high heeled boots walking down the street.
He also Tweeted a video of a man singing in court, with the caption: “Me at Nike headquarters tomorrow.”
In another Tweet, Lil Nas X referenced a popular Spongebob Squarepants meme by posting a video of a homeless Squidward asking for spare change, with the caption: “Me after the Nike lawsuit.”