Stupid is as stupid does. And this was definitely stupid.
It doesn't surprise me that people, including people who work for Nike, don't know about Ireland's history. However, it does surprise me that people, especially those who work for Nike, don't know how to use a search engine.
The international shoe giant eventually apologized for naming, albeit unofficially, a shoe after a ruthless bunch of thugs who brutally slaughtered the Irish civilians in the name of the Crown — the Black and Tans. The group was a paramilitary force sent by England in 1919 to squash any uprising of the Irish Republican Army.
Instead, the Black and Tans widely raped and pillaged any and all Irish men, women and children who crossed their paths.
The name came from their black tunics and tan army pants.
Since then, the Irish memorialized the Black and Tans with a drink. It is half British ale (usually Bass) and half Guinness. (For the record, if it's made with Guinness and Harp, it's called a half and half.)
Nike thought they were naming the shoes after a beverage. Nobody thought to ask where the name of the drink came from. That is just plain stupid. We're not talking about a small town church festival that made an error. Nike is big time. They should have caught it.
Some reports quote Ciaran Staunton, the president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, as saying that naming the shoe the Black and Tan is the Irish equivelent of calling it the al-Qaida. That's about right. I'll add, it's like naming it the Pearl Harbor Bomber.
I can certainly understand an honest mistake. However, Nike is an international company. Learning sensitivities about other countries and other cultures is part of their daily ops. To me, this is like a NASA spacecraft that couldn't land because it did not convert metric to English. This is not rocket science. Well, in that case, apparently it would be.
Still, our society is getting stupider and stupider. This is another example. We cannot possibly memorize everything. We cannot truly learn by rote. We need to teach our children to go a layer deeper, to ask another question, to find out more.
No, no, Nike. You flunked the history test. Perhaps you'll do better in spelling. Perhaps, instead, you should teach your employees to memorize the word "Google."