Since 2012, Nike has been celebrating June’s Pride Month by releasing special editions of some of their most popular sneakers with the added element of a pride symbol. The BETRUE collection aims at creating a more inclusive collection of footwear, t-shirts, hats, socks and hip packs for the LGBTQ community, but with Nike’s decision this year to use the controversial pink triangle on their BETRUE collection, the company has missed the mark while focusing on one of the most painful moments in the history of the LGBTQ community.
In the early 1930s when the Nazis came to power, Hitler imposed anti-gay laws that made it possible for men to be arrested for touching or simply looking at one another. It’s estimated that between 1933 and 1945, 100,000 men were arrested under suspicion of being gay, with estimates that upwards of 15,000 men were sent to concentration camps, where they were segregated, castrated and often used for scientific experiments. Whereas Jewish prisoners were identified by the Star of David on their clothing, gay men were forced to wear patches made from pink triangles.
Through the years, the LGBTQ community has attempted to reclaim the pink triangle as a symbol to remember the atrocities faced by those who were persecuted in the past for their sexuality, with the pink triangle popping up during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and more recently, during protests against the high number of gay men going missing in Chechnya.
In their press release on the latest BETRUE campaign, Nike acknowledges the dark history of the pink triangle, writing: “Also highlighted in the collection is the pink triangle, a shape that has a complex past in LGBTQ culture. Originally used to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII, the triangle was reclaimed in the 1970s by pro-gay activists and was later adopted by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in their memorable 1980s-era ‘Silence=Death’ campaign.”
While it’s important to note that Nike does recognize the importance of the symbol, we’re still unsure that it belongs on a running shoe. When Nike started their BETRUE campaign back in 2012, the company donated $200,000 to the LGBT Coalition for Sports, an organization that fights to end homophobia in sports. According to OutSports.com, part of the proceeds from this year’s BETRUE collection will be donated to LGBTQ groups, but in their new press release, Nike does not state they will be donating any of the proceeds from the sale of the products to LGBTQ support groups or charities.
The 2018 BETRUE collection launches on June 6, so hopefully Nike decides to truly honour those who lost their lives fighting to not be labeled and donates the proceeds from the clothing line to LGBTQ organizations.