The Internet was fuming with rage when New Balance showed its support for Donald J. Trump the day after he won the majority of electoral votes. The cosign was in response to the President-Elect’s stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed piece of legislature by President Barack Obama that made it way more attractive for sneaker brands—or brands in general—to outsource their labor to Asia because of lower tariffs. As the only major sneaker brand who still makes shoes in America, the brand was excited that a candidate was voted into office that wouldn’t royally fuck over this business. The brand currently operates five factories in New England and makes over 4 million pairs of sneakers in the U.S. per year, so keeping jobs within the States is important to them.
Regardless of the reasons, the backlash from Twitter fingers came fast and furious. Countless people tweeted their outrage, posting about burning or trashing their New Balance sneakers. This disdain caused the last U.S.-based sneaker brand that gives good-paying manufacturing jobs to Americans to be adopted by Neo Nazis, thanks to glowing praise of the company by white supremacist website The Daily Stormer. This all led to a PR nightmare for New Balance.
Last night during a performance in San Jose, California, Kanye West admitted that he would have voted for Trump in the 2016 election, if he had even bothered to vote at all. So far, not one person has burned their Adidas Yeezys or thrown them in the trash as a result of the statement. The question is: Why?
I’m not one for advocating the destruction of perfectly good sneakers—be it New Balance, Adidas or other—but I’m of the thinking that if you’re going to take a hard stance on something, you need to stick to it. Adidas is releasing three pairs of Yeezy Boosts on November 23, and I can, with unwavering certainty, guarantee that the sneakers will sell out in two seconds, and likely crash all the websites they’re being sold on. What happened to the piss and vigor that was applied to New Balance for supporting Trump on a trade policy that would encourage more people in America to get jobs, an issue that the presidential election is always about?
It seems weird that people were so quick to drag New Balance through the muck and paint the brand as the “official sneaker company of the alt-right,” when they won’t apply this same rhetoric to Adidas and the Yeezy Boosts. It is completely possible that calls for a boycott could still happen, although it seems far from realistic at this point. Action Bronson did recently say on Twitter, “I’ll be donating a ridiculous amount of NBs and Yeezys to struggling immigrants in NYC.”
The Internet was running rampant with sites—ours included—posting heavy criticisms of New Balance and their insensitivity to people who are uncomfortable and feel terrified of a Trump presidency. I get it: It was tone deaf, poor messaging, and extremely awful timing by New Balance to try and explain complex stances on trade issues the morning after millions of people were dealing with an election hangover and worried about the next four years. But almost 24 hours after the Kanye incident, Adidas is not receiving the same treatment.
I realize that Kanye said these things as an individual and not Adidas, but people are oftentimes so quick to jump on the bandwagon. I have a theory as to why people are giving his Adidas sneakers a pass. They’re just more coveted in pop culture than their $75 counterparts, the New Balance 574s, which were being set in flames. (The brand’s more-expensive, more-coveted Made in USA sneakers were absent from the online destruction.) But is that fair? Is it OK to potentially ruin the future of a sneaker brand, that’s actually doing great things for Americans, because of one statement, but still run out to buy the shoes of a man who says he would have helped put Trump in office, even if it was just to bring the racists out of hiding?
How can you toss your New Balances in trash can—or at least put them in timeout in the back of your closet for a bit—and try your luck on Adidas’ Confirmed app in five days? You can’t. On top of that, a Yeezy boycott is kind of pointless. I’m not saying it’s impossible to galvanize everyone to not buy Kanye’s sneakers. But given the high resale value associated with Yeezys, it’s likely that way more people are going to try and buy the shoes than the amount made by Adidas. So it’s plausible that people who will vote with their dollar and not buy the shoes won’t be able to get them anyway.
Honestly, comparing the New Balance situation to Kanye and Adidas is murky at best. For starters, New Balance made the statement; Adidas didn’t. Kanye has a sneaker with Adidas, but he doesn’t represent the thoughts and ideas of the company as a whole. He also has a lot more influence than anyone associated with New Balance and has fans that ride harder for him than the average New Balance consumer does for its American-made shoes. He could tell people that anchovy pizza is the gospel, and there would be people lined up at pizzerias around the world asking for fish on their slice. #Anchovy would be trending on Twitter, and there would be some who would begrudgingly convince themselves that they like it. There are probably even some people who are starting to think differently about Trump because of what Kanye said.
If you’re genuinely mad about Kanye supporting Trump, don’t wear his sneakers. But consider this: It’s a bit judgmental to not want to associate with a brand because of someone’s political views. I think it’s safe to say that there were plenty of people in high-up, influential positions at major companies who voted for Trump, but we’re not calling for people to discard the products from those brands. Hell, people still eat at Chick-Fil-A even though the brand’s CEO, Dan Cathy, is opposed to gay marriage. Does it make it right? No, but it’s not much different than this situation.
The sad thing about all of this, though, is that everyone who’s frustrated by Kanye’s opinion will forget about it in a week, kind of like they’re slowly doing with this whole New Balance fiasco. People will still try to get their hands on the new Yeezy Boosts in less than a week, and they’ll still listen to The Life of Pablo. Some will be angry right now, of course, but most won’t set their shoes on fire. And if they do, it will only be to get some attention on the Internet.