Nike Highlights Its Commitment To The Latino Community

Nike Highlights Its Commitment To The Latino Community

*Para versión en español, entra aquí*

Latinos are in tos' laos' (everywhere). This was evident at L'Attitude, an event dedicated to empowering and celebrating US Latinos who are excelling in areas such as business, culture, sports, technology, among others.

Nike was part of the event, presenting an in-depth look at its initiatives with the Latino community through conversations with executives, employees, designers, athletes, and other influential voices.

John Donahoe (left) and Sol Trujillo. Courtesy of Nike.

Mofongo Kicks™ had the opportunity to attend the conversation between Nike CEO John Donahoe, and L'Attitude co-founder Sol Trujillo, where the importance of the Latino community in sneaker culture was highlighted.

“The latino community is deeply ingrained in sneaker culture. It's been a core part of Nike from the very beginning,” John Donahoe said. "This is a community that we have to be with 365 days a year, we have to have a 360-degree view of design, athletes, and consumers,” he added. "We listen to sneaker culture, we listen to the people that authenticate culture, the people that create culture, the tastemakers, and the latino community is absolutely a core part of that,"

In its effort to advance an inclusive workplace for the Latino community, Nike has created programs such as the Serena Williams Design Crew, a design apprenticeship program for diverse and emerging designers that offers the opportunity to not only be a part of Nike, but also to create a signature line for the legendary Serena Williams.

Vanessa Garcia-Brito, Nike VP of North America Communications. Courtesy of Nike.

"We have some really fantastic latino talent coming through that program," said Vanessa Garcia-Brito, VP of North America Communications at Nike. "They are really helping us to innovate and design and create in many different ways and in many more inclusive ways as well."

Inclusion has extended to the board of directors. Mónica Gil, Chief Administrative and Marketing Officer of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, joined Nike's board of directors last September. This marks a big moment as Latinas hold less than 1% of board seats at Fortune 500 companies, according to the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA).

Mónica Gil, John Donahoe, and Sol Trujillo. Courtesy of Nike.

And of course, we wouldn't be Mofongo Kicks™ without talking about Puerto Rico. Over the past few years, we've been very vocal about our frustration with the designs and the way Nike has handled previous Puerto Rico sneaker releases.

In 2000, Nike released an Air Force 1 Low inspired by La Isla del Encanto. After that first release, the Puerto Rican AF1s became an annual tradition, usually releasing in June to coincide with the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. 

With the 2019 Puerto Rican Air Force 1, Nike made a big mistake by using a traditional Panamanian textile art called mola as inspiration. After being criticized (rightfully so) by the likes of DJ Clark Kent, Nike canceled the release. Unfortunately, the mistakes didn't end there. 



In 2020, Nike attempted to release the original pair of the Air Force 1 PR, but were forced to cancel the release due to the flag being backwards.

OG pair of Nike AF1 PR released in 2000 (left), and the cancelled release of 2020. Courtesy of MalditoGedo.

And in 2021, Nike released an Air Max 97 Puerto Rico. While there were no major missteps as in previous years, the design of the shoes proved to be divisive. For many (including us), it felt lazy, as if all they did was slap a flag on an Air Max 97 Silver Bullet. 



These embarrassing mistakes, along with the lack of variety in colors and concepts, fueled an already growing sense of frustration in the Puerto Rican community.

This served as a learning experience for Nike. "We have many sayings at Nike, but one of my favorites is 'There is no finish line', which means we are constantly innovating," said Garcia-Brito. She continued to share how important it is for Nike to have "the ongoing conversations, the ongoing connections, and making sure that they're being represented in the room."

And the learning was evident. In 2022, the Swoosh bounced back with a solid release of the Air Force 1 PR, offering two new colorways. 

One pair featured mismatched colors and was inspired by the architecture and colors found in many urban areas of the island's towns. The other pair was dressed in white with sky blue, a color never before used in Puerto Rican Nike sneakers. 

Nike Air Force 1 Low "Puerto Rico" released in 2022. Courtesy of Nike.

For the first time in three years, there seems to be a general consensus in the Puerto Rican community that Nike took a step in the right direction. A big reason why this release was successful was the fact that Nico Rodríguez, a Jordan Brand designer born and raised in Puerto Rico, led the project. As a result, they've created excitement for what is to come.

There are still challenges for Nike to solve (for example, the lack of shipping to Puerto Rico in the SNKRS app), but it's encouraging to see the company take concrete steps to better serve both Latino consumers and its Latino employees. 

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