Dazie Williams’s 22-year-old son had just picked up three pairs of the hotly anticipated Air Jordans at the 2012 release event right before Christmas when he was shot and killed.
Williams said that she told her son, Joshua Woods, to be careful when he went to purchase the $185 sneakers, because of the frenzy surrounding the shoes and the culture created by limited shoe models.
Now, in addition to seeing Neal Bland, one of the accused gunman, on trial for the death of her son, Williams is going after the people that she believes created the climate that got her son killed: Michael Jordan and Nike.
“My son’s life was worth more than a pair of shoes,” Williams told reporters. “Nike and Michael Jordan didn’t pull the trigger that took my son’s life, but with great power comes great responsibility.”
David J. Friendly, a filmmaker who made a documentary about the shoe subculture, said that the culture surrounding the shoes, particularly Air Jordans, has long been associated with this kind of violent behavior.
“There’s some gritty violence that goes down over this stuff,” he explained. “Particularly in the inner city, these sneakers mean so much more. These kids form their identity around this material possession.”
The New York Daily News reported nationwide brawls in stores during Air Jordan sneaker releases not even a year after Joshua Woods was killed.
Friendly added that, while about 1,000 deaths can be traced back to sneakers per year, those numbers are likely too low.
“I suspect it’s much more,” he said. “There are probably a lot of situations that are not reported where somebody is tussling over a pair of kicks and somebody gets seriously hurt or killed, and how do you measure those?”
“Nike has a responsibility in this, and they have to do something. If nothing happens, you’ll see more mothers like me,” Williams said Tuesday. “My son isn’t the only one.”
While Jordan has called Williams to express his condolences, there has been little forward motion on any kind of changes to help prevent future deaths.
“Nike isn’t here, because they don’t care,” community activist Deric Muhammad said on Tuesday. “Michael Jordan isn’t here, because he cares even less.”
Meanwhile, Nike spokesman Brian Facchini sent an email stating that the company valued consumer lives.
“We are continuing to work with retailers who sell our products to improve the buying experience,” he said. “We are in regular contact with our retail partners to share best practices and will continue to do so. We continue to encourage people wishing to purchase our products to do so in a respectful manner.”