Nike yanks Samoan-inspired tattoo tights

The footwear and apparel giant thought intricate, painful marks used for centuries as a male rite of passage would make great leggings.

By Jason Notte Aug 15, 2013 5:06PM
Nike Pro Tattoo Tech Tights (© Nike)Some things to consider the next time you're putting together a pair of jaunty athletic leggings, Nike (NKE): Make sure you're not co-opting an entire culture's sacred, painful tradition and, if you are, don't make it a blatant part of your marketing and promotion of the offending item.

According to TVNZ news, Nike has pulled its black-and-white women's Pro Tattoo Tech tights (pictured) after petitioners pointed out that not only was the company ripping off the Samoan Pe'a pattern that's rarely seen on folks who aren't Samoan, but it used the pattern on women's clothing when it's only applied to men.

The pants first appeared on late July and received the following shout-out on Nike's blog: "The NTM (Nike Tight of the Moment) gets all fancy pants again, this time looking to the tattoos of Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand for the latest head-turning design, the Nike Pro Tattoo Tech tights (and sports bra and bodysuit)." Even if the company didn't know that the word tattoo stems from the Samoan "tatau," it's tough to feign complete ignorance after making a statement like that.

The reaction to the stretch pants in question was particularly hostile on a petition launched on Aug. 2 to protest their sale. "I am 100% Samoan and I find Nike's blatant disrespect and profit over my culture's way of life shameless and irreverent," one comment read. "The tatau is thousands of years old with a tradition of honor and you have reduced it to $80 Spanx. Remove at once!"

Given the tradition and the sheer amount of pain involved in applying Pe'a, the outcry is understandable. PBS dates back the practice nearly 2,000 years and notes that Pe'a can take days to months to complete. It's a rite of passage that's supposed to symbolize courage and commitment to cultural tradition -- both of which are prerequisites for receiving markings that are still applied with sharpened pieces of turtle shell and boar's teeth.

Nike sent this statement to MSN moneyNOW about the issue: "The Nike tattoo tech tights were inspired by tattoo graphics," the company said. "We apologize to anyone who views this design as insensitive to any specific culture. No offense was intended. The tights were of a limited run and no additional tights will be sold."

Nike has goofed before in trying to mix cultural references with apparel sales. Just last year, it introduced a special pair of "Black and Tan" training sneakers for St. Patrick's Day, but had to slink away from those when it discovered that "Black and Tans" weren't Guinness-based drinks that some bartender concocted, but an incredibly malicious British paramilitary unit best known for committing various atrocities against the Irish.

It's not particularly adept at making those connections in the U.S., either. About a month ago, it had to pull a shirt for the NFL's Carolina Panthers when it put a picture of South Carolina on the garment in question. The team plays in Charlotte, which is decidedly in North Carolina. There was far less to chuckle about in April, when Nike pulled T-shirts featuring the blood-splattered words "Boston Massacre" from stores in days after the Boston Marathon was bombed.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 15, 2013 5:29PM

One can offend anyone at anytime.  People are overly sensitive. 

Aug 15, 2013 6:12PM
Really? This offended somebody? Really? Who do I talk to about being offended by people being offended by every little thing?
Aug 15, 2013 6:42PM

 I think Mae West said it best!

"Those who are easily offended should be offended more often."

Being easily offended has become an industry in this country, if you don’t like them don’t buy and wear them, if you don’t like seeing them don’t look at me wearing them!



Aug 15, 2013 7:59PM
More confirmation that we've become a nation of idiots
Aug 15, 2013 6:28PM
Aug 15, 2013 8:10PM
Oooh, no, don't offend any minority group; that's just hateful and racist. But feel free to mock the Irish, Italian, English, German, French etc. traditions. They're all white; it's not racist then. SMH.

Quit being such over-sensitive gits.

Aug 15, 2013 5:48PM
I hate tattoos, but like the tights.  And yes, I agree that people are just too sensitive.
Aug 15, 2013 5:49PM
Whoever bought these has a collector's item on their hands.
Aug 15, 2013 6:50PM

Really tired of the overly sensitive!  And if you are overly sensitive, keep it to yourself and go home and scream about it, to yourself!  Those leggings look great.

Aug 15, 2013 8:39PM
I'm Samoan, this didn't "offend" me I think thats too strong of a word. It's annoys me and because I know the back story of our tatau's and the meaning behind it I see why others can be offended.  As annoying as it is I'd rather look at the brighter things of the situation. I think it's pretty awesome that other cultures especially one so main stream finds our traditions of the tatau so cool that they wanted to share.  It could prompt someone to brush up on a little history of something they never knew about, give someone new "small talk" material lol. 

I think whats more offensive is the fact that leggins as pants is an ever growing trend. I wish with all my heart that it will stop hahaha.  Having my nieces and nephews ask me "Whats camel toe aunty" is getting too much lol.

Aloha everyone =)
- Anastasia

Aug 15, 2013 8:16PM
And...usually...the one who is offended isn't even a part of the culture/race that they say it offends!!
Aug 15, 2013 8:08PM
Aug 15, 2013 8:14PM

Of all the truly dire, pressing things to be concerned about in this world - war, famine, global warming, government corruption and unrest - this is the DUMBEST thing I've seen in some time.  As someone else said - they're PANTS, fer cryin' out loud!!  To all offended Samoans out there:  Last time I checked, you have WAY bigger things to be worried about.  GET OVER IT!!

Aug 15, 2013 6:03PM
Aug 15, 2013 8:07PM
Agree, too much sensitivity. Amen!!!
Aug 15, 2013 6:57PM
Nice pants,I'd love a pair for my girlfriend.She runs and likes tights.
Aug 15, 2013 8:17PM
So what if these are made for women? They are only leggings!!!
Aug 15, 2013 9:22PM
I am what are they going to do without plaid????
Aug 15, 2013 8:33PM
Some of my favorite cookies are called Samoans . . . . .   I guess I have to stop eating those. 
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