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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
I'll——you up quick two times. Who told you to step on my sneakers?...Damn, my brand new Jordans. You should buy me another pair.
I'm gonna leave now.
If I wasn't a righteous black man you'd be in serious trouble. SERIOUS.
"I never felt like there was any blood on our hands," Spike says. "I'm upset by anybody being killed. But you have to look at why it is that way. What is it about these kids' lives that is so bleak that they need a pair of sneakers or a Georgetown jacket to give them self-worth?"
Spike appreciates that both Jordan and Thompson have stuck with him, even in his militant's clothing. "I think if Michael Jordan had a weak spine, if he were scared, if he were one of these handkerchief-wearing, chicken-and-biscuit-eating Negroes, he wouldn't have stayed with it," Spike says. "I know people have come up to Mike and said, 'I don't think you should be associated with Spike.' I know that there have been plenty of black athletes who have told me, 'Look, man, I'd really like to do it, but my agents say if I even get in a picture with you it will hurt my image. They think you're too black."
In fact, you've got to hunt to find an ethnic group Spike Lee hasn't offended. His two Jewish jazz-club owners in Mo' Better Blues (released in 1990) so offended Jews that Spike had to write an op-ed piece in The New York Times insisting he wasn't an anti-Semite. He infuriated blacks by focusing in School Daze (1988) on the mutual prejudice between light-skinned blacks and dark-skinned blacks. In Do the Right Thing (1989), Koreans flung racial insults at Jews, blacks at Italians, Italians at blacks, whites at Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans at Koreans in a Rainbow Demolition of racism.
So how come Spike remains one of the hottest rides on Madison Avenue? How come Spike's Jordan ads helped propel Nike miles past Reebok and Converse? How come Levi's went to him for its button-fly minidocumentaries on kids? In those, Spike covered everyone from the kids who chase home run balls on Waverly Avenue outside Chicago's Wrigley Field (his idea) to surfers in Huntington Beach, Calif. ("We don't surf in Brooklyn," he tells them), to a guy who spins 11 basketballs at once.