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SENSELESS
Rick Telander
May 14, 1990
In America's cities, kids are killing kids over sneakers and other sports apparel favored by drug dealers. Who's to blame?
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May 14, 1990

Senseless

In America's cities, kids are killing kids over sneakers and other sports apparel favored by drug dealers. Who's to blame?

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"Everybody wants us to do everything," says Nike's Dolan. "It's naive to think an antidrug message on the shoe box is going to change anyone's behavior. Our theme is 'Just do it!' because we want people playing sports, because they'll need more shoes. The healthier people are, the more shoes we'll sell."

Trouble is, young black males—a significant portion of the market—are not healthy right now. In fact, 23% of black males between the ages of 20 and 29 are under the supervision of the criminal justice system—incarcerated, paroled or on probation. According to a 1989 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a black male is six times more likely to be a homicide victim than a white male. Writes Washington Post columnist William Raspberry: "The inability of so many young black men to see themselves as providers, or even as necessary to their families, may be one explanation for their irresponsible behavior." Marc Mauer, of the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group concerned with disparities in the administration of criminal justice, says, "We now risk the possibility of writing off an entire generation of black men."

Obviously we are talking about some-thins bigger than shoes here. Jordan sits up straight in his chair. It's time for practice to start. "I'd rather eliminate the product [the shoes] than know drug dealers are providing the funds that pay me," he says.

Of course drug money is, to a troubling extent, supporting the product, as well as other brands of sneakers and sports apparel. And kids are being killed for them. So what should the shoe companies, the schools, the advertising industry, the endorsers, the media, parents—all of us—do about it?

Do you know? Do you know? Do you know?

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