Earlier this week, a new minimal runner from Nike hit shelves out of nowhere, and it's causing a stir on the Internet.
Named the "Juvenate," the sneaker takes inspiration from the Nike Rujevn8 Mid, but that name was only assigned after Nike first chose to call it the "Zenji," before realizing that wasn't the best idea. According to a thread on Reddit, the name "Zenji" is a derogatory term in Arabic for people from Zanzibar. People are translating this word to an outdated use of the N word.
By Nike's logic, the word Zenji was supposed to represent the zen-like qualities of the sneaker and evoke a calm and relaxing feeling, much like the Roshe. The Zenji was also planned to be a packable sneaker, being sold in dust bags for travelers.
According to Reddit, retailers have been asked to change the preexisting box labels to read "Juvenate" and discard the Zenji dust bags. But not everyone has done this yet. Amazon is currently selling the Juvenate under the name "Zenji." A Google search of Zenji also unearths that this sneaker has been written about before.
This story is reminiscent of the Air Bakin' fiasco, in which the "Air" on the heel of the sneaker was thought to read "Allah." After last week's law enforcement ordeal, it hasn't been the easiest month for Nike's PR team.
UPDATE (5/21/2015 3:41 p.m.): Nike has issued an official statement to Complex regarding this issue.
"The name for the Nike Zenji was derived from the Japanese word for Zen master, as the simple and lightweight design of the shoe is inspired by the idea of achieving a Zen-like state. Unfortunately, we were unaware that the word “zenji” also takes on a derogatory meaning when pronounced in Arabic. As soon as we became aware, we took immediate action to rename the shoe the Nike Juvenate. We apologize to anyone who was offended by the original name. No offense was intended."