NIKE: Air Jordans cause natinwide shopping frenzy
SEATTLE — Fights, vandalism and arrests marked the release of Nike’s new Air Jordan basketball shoes as a shopping rush on stores across the country led to unrest that nearly turned into rioting.
The outbursts of chaos stretched from Washington state to Georgia as shoppers — often waiting for hours in lines — converged on stores Friday in pursuit of the shoes, a retro model of one of the most popular Air Jordans ever made.
In suburban Seattle, police used pepper spray on about 20 customers who started fighting at the Westfield Southcenter mall. The crowd started gathering at four stores in the mall around midnight and had grown to more than 1,000 people by 4 a.m., when the stores opened, Tukwila Officer Mike Murphy said. He said it started as fighting and pushing among people in line and escalated over the next hour.
The mayhem was reminiscent of the violence that broke out 20 years ago in many cities as the shoes became popular targets for thieves. It also had a decidedly Black Friday feel as huge crowds of shoppers overwhelmed stores for a must-have item.
In some areas, lines began forming several hours before businesses opened for the $180 shoes that were selling in a limited release.
As the crowds kept growing through the night, they became more unruly and ended in vandalism, violence and arrests.
A man was stabbed when a brawl broke out between several people waiting in line at a Jersey City, N.J., mall to buy the new shoes, authorities said. The 20-year-old man was expected to recover from his injuries.
Seventeen-year-old Dylan Pulver in Great Neck, N.Y., said he’s been looking forward to the release of the shoes for several years, and he set out at 4:30 a.m. to get a pair. After the first store he tried was too crowded, he moved on to a second location and scored a pair.
“I probably could have used a half a size smaller, but I was just really happy to have the shoe,” he said.
The frenzy over Air Jordans has been dangerous in the past. Some people were mugged or even killed for early versions of the shoe, created by Nike Inc. in 1984.
The Air Jordan has since been a consistent hit with sneaker fans, spawning a subculture of collectors willing to wait hours to buy the latest pair. Some collectors save the shoes for special occasions or never take them out of the box.
A new edition was launched each year, and release dates had to be moved to the weekends at some points to keep kids from skipping school to get a pair.
But the uproar over the shoe had died down in recent years.
Shoppers described the scene as chaotic and at times dangerous.
Carlisa Williams said she joined the crowd at the Southcenter for the experience and ended up buying two pairs of shoes, one for her and one for her brother. But she said she’ll never do anything like it again.
“I don’t understand why they’re so important to people,” Williams told KING-TV. “They’re just shoes at the end of the day. It’s not worth risking your life over.”