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Sneaker Blowout Becomes Corporate Theater

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Surreal moment in the opening minute of last night’s UNC/Duke game, as Duke forward Zion Williamson — widely assumed to be the first pick in the 2019 NBA draft — planted his left foot and then took a tumble as his sneaker came apart. He left the game with a mild knee sprain and did not return.

Lots of news reports said the sneaker “exploded,” but that seems like irresponsible hyperbole. As you can see in the photo above, the sole separated from the upper along one side. Here’s video of the play:

And here it is from a different angle:

The defective sneaker was made by Nike. So, perhaps predictably, lots of people turned the incident into an episode of corporate theater:

Okay, so that last one is pretty funny. Still, I was surprised (but perhaps shouldn’t have been) by the degree to which so many people seemed more concerned with what the incident meant for Nike than what it might mean for Williamson or Duke. Sigh.

Obviously, I’ve had my own issues with Nike over the years. But honestly, considering how big today’s basketball players are and the amount of torque they bring to bear on their footwear, I’m surprised this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often.

It does happen occasionally, however. Last night’s incident immediately reminded me of an NBA game from 2014 (five years ago almost to the day, in fact), when Spurs guard Manu Ginóbili blew out his left sneaker. But in his case, all that was hurt was his pride:

That sneaker was also a Nike. But I’m pretty sure that’s just coincidence.

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Reimagining MLB: It’s not uncommon to see bloggers or designers coming up with new concepts for a team or league. But it’s fairly unusual to see a league doing this for its own teams. Yet that’s what has done with a new project to rename all 30 MLB teams and give them new cap logos.

It’s all for fun — or could it be something more? After all, minor league teams now routinely give themselves one-game makeovers, so could that approach be coming to MLB, where the higher-ups seem determined to make the game more appealing to a younger demographic? Also worth noting: The ground rules specify that the new team name “should be something related to the team’s area or its history,” which sounds a lot like the approach that the NBA and Nike have taken for the NBA’s “City” uniforms. Nike, of course, will be taking over the MLB uniform contract next season. Hmmmm.

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Photo by Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press; click to enlarge

Don’t tell Don Cherry: Yup, that’s just what it looks like — hockey players in skirts. They’re Hutterite women in Manitoba, and they traditionally play hockey on Louis Riel Day, which was on Monday. The photo shown above is actually from last year’s game (here’s the article it came from, which is excellent — recommended); here’s an article on this year’s installment of the game.

I wanted to know how the skirts looked in action, so I went looking for some video. Here’s a clip from 2014 — too bad about the vertical orientation but still plenty interesting:

(My thanks to Adam Franz for letting me know about this one.)

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Cap update: We had been sold out of several popular sizes of the Uni Watch Classic Cap, but I’m happy to report that all sizes have now been restocked. So if you were waiting for a particular size (or the adjustable version, which I believe was also temporarily out of stock), now you’re good to go.

Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who helped me liquidate our excess inventory on our alternate flex-fit cap. That item is now sold out and will not be offered again.

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Membership update: When someone asks us for a membership card based on a vest jersey, we usually don’t depict the undershirt. But Tim LaDuca specifically asked us to include the undershirt on his new card, which is based on the old Oakland A’s vests. MLB vests were much more narrowly tailored across the shoulders in those days (today’s “vests” are really just sleeveless jerseys, not true vests), so including the undershirt on the card made sense. Looks great!

Tim’s card is one of four new designs that have been added to the membership card gallery. As of this morning, we’re fully caught up on orders.

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, quite frankly, could use your support these days). And remember, a Uni Watch membership card entitles you to a 15% discount on any of the merchandise in our Teespring shop and our Naming Wrongs shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me.) As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here, and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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Wafflebored jersey reminder: We’re currently auctioning off the very excellent Uni Watch hockey jersey shown above, which was made by the one and only Wafflebored. Full details here.

While we’re at it, we also announced this week that Uni Watch is once again partnering with Grey Flannel Auctions to provide free appraisals of your sports-related collectibles.

If you have game-used jerseys, autographs, or other potentially valuable memorabilia, you can submit photos and descriptions to GFA and get a free appraisal, with no further obligation, within 72 hours. It’s like an online version of Antiques Roadshow. If you want to consign your item to GFA, that can be arranged, but you’re under no obligation to do so.

For full details on all of this, look here.

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The Ticker
By Yianni Varonis

Baseball News: The Reds became the second team to announce a Frank Robinson memorial patch. The Reds will also honor Robinson twice in July on days they wear throwbacks from the era he played with the team (from our own Alex Hider and multiple readers). … Former MLB and Negro League P Don Newcombe passed away this week. It’s worth a reminder that he likely served as a model for the Senators’ 1961 logo, though he never played for the team (from Kevin Zdancewicz). … Reader Andrew Lockett writes that the Nationals’ mascots recently visited his daughter’s elementary school and gave her and her classmates eye patches modeled after P Max Sherzer, who has a blue eye and a brown eye. … From Phil: The Tigers released a list of promotional items that the team will give away this season, including a bobblehead of former manager Sparky Anderson sitting on an “Iron Throne.” … Here’s a fascinating look at the history, culture, and politics that surrounded the building of Dodger Stadium during the 1950s (from Andrew Cosentino). … New White Sox OF Jon Jay now wears No. 45 in honor of Michael Jordan. … Manny Machado hasn’t yet signed his contract with the Padres, but the team’s store was nonetheless selling Machado jerseys yesterday, although they were then removed (from Phil and Brinke).

NFL News: From Phil: Nike is now selling a Colin Kaepernick jersey only days after he reached a settlement with the NFL on his collusion case. … The Jaguars will unveil an anniversary logo next month to celebrate the team’s 25th season in the league.

Hockey News: The Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League will wear sweaters featuring player nicknames that will be auctioned off for charity with proceeds going to the fight against cancer (from Wade Heidt). … The Gatineau Olympiques — that’s a major junior team — retired Claude Giroux’s No. 28 last night (from @FSBabyHuey). … New “Miracle on Ice”-themed uniforms for the Charlotte Checkers (from Matt French). … Here’s another 1970s shot of hockey players wearing bulbous helmets that look more like football helmets without facemasks, although that’s not what they are (from Ryan Dever).

NBA News: This piece, which has quotes from Paul, argues that the Mavericks are due for a logo and uniform change. … Newly signed G Jordan Sibert will wear No. 8 with the Hawks; G Jodie Meeks will wear No. 20 with the Raptors; and F Emanuel Terry will wear No. 12 with the Heat (from Etienne Catalan).

College Hoops News: Former president Barack Obama was at the UNC/Duke game and wore a jacket with “44” on the sleeve (from Gregory Zitelli). … Ohio State wore its Clark Kellogg-era throwbacks last night in a color-vs.-color game, with the Buckeyes in scarlet and Northwestern going GFGS (from multiple readers). … Ohio State also had Black History Month warmups (from Ben Teaford). … Memphis also wore throwbacks, becoming “Memphis State” last night (from Kendall Cruse). … Georgia Tech’s athletic department recently adopted a uniform shade of gold for its teams. The school’s basketball court, however, will need to undergo another update because the new shade of gold has a greenish tint from the stands and on television (from Michael Rich). … Augsburg G Booker Coplin, a likely DIII All-American, also cleans his team’s laundry (from Tom Whitfield).

Soccer News: MLS’s newest franchise, Nashville SC, officially unveiled the colors and crest it will wear beginning in 2020 (from multiple readers) … From Phil: The Colorado Rapids have a new, all-white kit, and one writer thinks that’s all the uniform should be thought of as. … The Los Angeles Galaxy unveiled a new away kit, which prompted one site to rank every change shirt the team has ever worn (from GISHammer). … The National Women’s Soccer League ended its TV agreement with Lifetime. However, every team in the league will continue to wear a Lifetime sleeve ad this season, as they have the last two years (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … It appears that English club Leeds United has tweaked its badge for its 100th birthday. … This is pretty unique: The new home and away kits of Argentinian club CA Colon were released, featuring the maker’s mark of a company that is a knockoff of another manufacturer. More information here (from Ed Zelaski). … Soccer kits tend to have one-season lifespans nowadays. Here’s a look at kits that have bucked the trend by lasting three years (from Denis Hurley).

Grab Bag: We mentioned last week that golf’s Players Championship has a new trophy. It turns out that the tournament is also tweaking the colors of its logo (from @MadeByTim). … Pro golfer Steve Stricker was recently announced as captain of the 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup team. To honor the Wisconsin native, Stricker was presented with jerseys from the state’s major professional and college sports teams (from Michael Brighton). … A Wisconsin high school is facing major scrutiny from the ACLU after cheerleading coaches gave “awards” to students for having “enormous boobs” and a “big booty” (NYT Link) (from Langhorne Mayor and Amare Smith). … Cedar Rapids, Iowa is designing a new municipal flag after the current design, which was created by a high school student in the 1960s, was deemed one of the worst in the country (from Aaron Telecky). … Speaking of which, Scottsdale, Ariz. will also unveil a new municipal flag, and here are the two finalists. … Burberry has apologized after receiving criticism for designing a hoodie with a noose around the neck. … A convention center in Detroit is being renamed after the policies of its former namesake, 1950s-era mayor Albert Cobo, has been criticized for being racist (from Ryan Keberly and Alex Dewitt). … In Chicago, the proliferation of craft beer has also inspired a wave of artistic beer-label designs. … Puma is selling a shoe that appears to be inspired by the popular California fast-food restaurant, In-N-Out Burger (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … McDonald’s has more than 36,000 locations around the world. Did you know that one — and only one — features turquoise instead of golden arches? … Kennesaw State University has unveiled a new logo.

Comments (61)

    One of the stipulations of the MLB redesign article was that the names and logos could not be minor-league-ish…
    …then they proceeded to mostly look like minor league logos.

    There are no words for how dumb and poorly rendered every last one of the reimagined MLB teams are. I’m speechless.

    Right on. My life would be better if I hadn’t clicked on that. As if Clown Shoes Weekend wasn’t bad enough.

    You ain’t whistlin’ Dixie.

    I actually like Cleveland Rocks, and Minnesota Princes isn’t too bad either. But other than that… jeebus fleebing cripes.

    If an MLB team were to change its name to “Octoberfest” it would have to be Cincinnati which has the largest Octoberfest celebration outside of Munich. It’s a three-day celebration that attracts more than 500,000 visitors.


    Looking at this sneaker “blowout” reminds me of the “Married with Children” episode when Al starts selling some retro women’s shoes and has a supermodel endorse them. At the lingerie show, she falls when the shoe breaks apart and will seemingly sue Al’s ass off.

    I really hope that MLB redesign wasn’t a test balloon for an NBA-like set of city editions in the future. Most minor league temporary food renamings had better designs than that. Gag.

    Is there any record of cleats blowing out in baseball or football? I imagine it *could* happen, but can’t recall any such incidents.


    Connor Shaw was a QB for the Gamecocks back in 2012, and he got into trouble for slamming Under Armour because their cleats kept falling apart. His tweet was:

    “3rd time the sole of my Under Armour shoes have completely busted. And we wonder why so many people have “freak” foot
    injuries on the team.”

    Interesting that the school didn’t pay him, didn’t allow him to pick his own cleats supplier, yet still got angry because he didn’t represent Under Armour in a good manner. A company that paid him $0 to advertise for them.

    UA’s QA Department must have gotten the memo, since Shaw continued wearing their cleats when he was with the Browns:


    …and the Bears:


    After taking in that Dodger Stadium piece, make sure to listen to Ry Cooder’s 2005 album, “Chavez Ravine”: link

    We don’t know whether anyone tweeting about Nike was “more concerned” with the corporate angle than with the athlete’s wellbeing. The quoted tweets are all jokes, so perhaps the posters were very concerned about the athlete’s wellbeing and so chose to joke about the shoe company rather than making fun of the athlete. And why would we consider it creditable to have expressed concern for Duke? Duke didn’t get injured, one of the unpaid workers on its professional sports plantation got injured. I would consider any expression of concern for Duke to be nigh obscene.

    Two ticker items in a row from Wisconsin, followed by another from Cedar Rapids, Iowa? It’s like today’s “Grab Bag” was composed just for me. Thanks, Yianni!

    My wife taught at a Hutterite colony in our first year of marriage when we lived in South Dakota. In a place where hockey was big, none of those women ever came close to playing hockey! That was a great piece. Thanks.

    I appreciate Nashville branding as “SC” and not “FC”. MLS teams are always co-opting silly things from International leagues (looking at you Real Salt Lake). Glad to see them use the Americanized word “Soccer”.

    I swear MLS would be taken more seriously in the US if all the teams went with the traditional American “city/nickname” motif instead of trying to sound like faux-Euro clubs.

    If I recall most teams went that route in the early days of the league, though with some of the more absurd, plural without an s, nicknames.
    I always thought they used the FC and more Euro names to legitimize themselves among fans of the sport. Sort of like, hey we know the legit players/teams are in Europe, we are trying to be like them. I also assumed MLS teams using SC had it short for Sports or Sporting Club, again, to try to sound legit among group that calls it football rather than soccer.

    Although the implication of “sporting club” is that there are multiple different types of sport teams under the umbrella. This is a big one used in Portugal, you’ve got Sporting Lisbon (a misnomer, they are really Sporting Clube de Portugal), Sporting Braga, etc. Like a lot of Euro clubs, they’ve got basketball, roller hockey, cycling squads. So really encompasses the meaning of a sporting club. So MLS teams using it is still slightly offbase, but it would awesome if they did get into supporting other athletic endeavors besides soccer, personally would love to see them sponsor cycling teams!

    Except MLS tried exactly that in its first decade and spent the entire time on the brink of folding because teams and the league couldn’t build fan followings. MLS tried chasing the casual American sports fan by speaking the idiomatic language of American sports, and failed. Since MLS has switched from trying to be the league that attracts non-soccer fans to root for their local soccer team to being the league that attracts soccer fans to add an American team to their existing soccer fandom, the league has been successful and growing. I roll my eyes at Real Salt Lake, sure, but MLS is speaking the language of international soccer, and it’s attracting fans.

    I have American friends who are super into EPL or Bundesliga teams, and they refer to it as “football.” So an American team calling itself FC instead of SC fits just fine. The people who will be all hot and bothered by “football” referring to the sport of football as understood by literally every human being on the planet except for Americans who hate the sport aren’t liable to attend or watch MLS games or buy MLS merchandise anyway. So MLS gives up nothing of value by speaking the language of international soccer, and we see from its performance that it gains a lot from doing so.

    @ Anthony – It seems that Australia’s governing body for the sport started exclusively using “football” back in ’05, and the limited reading I’ve done indicates clubs (all A-League teams include “Football Club” in their name now, regardless of whether there’s another nickname in there or not) and media outlets have done likewise. I’d be interested to see what the usage is among the general public, and if “football” is gaining traction or holding steady.

    It would also be interesting to see whether the reverse will prove true here in the US. I don’t see the USSF or MLS replacing their S’s with F’s anytime soon, but between the popularity of EA’s FIFA games, as well as European games commentated on by people who prefer “football” to “soccer”, as well as a growing Hispanic population, it seems the former may become every bit as accepted as the latter is. A couple of co-workers (both of Bosnian parentage, they’re 1st generation American-born) giggled a little when I used the term “soccer” while as we discussed the latest Champions League developments the other day.

    Incidentally, the USSF was known as the USFA (US Football Ass’n) from 1913-1945, then the USSFA (US Soccer FA) ’til ’74, at which point they adopted their current name.

    People always say that, and while I see the point, I really don’t think the amount of people who won’t watch a soccer match because the team is called Real Salt Lake instead of Salt Lake City Highlanders (for example) is significant.

    Either you are interested in watching a US based soccer league, or you aren’t.
    If you aren’t, you bring up the naming conventions, but if all the names changed, you’d find another reason to not pay attention.


    I for one support the establishment of a Spanish-speaking monarchy in Utah and would be glad to be Marquis of either San Jorge or Ciudad del Cedro.

    Zion Williamson believed in something, and he sacrificed everything, and this is his reward for just doing it.

    Maybe this will set precedent for allowing students to choose their own athletic footwear of their liking and not be forced to be a corporate shill.

    They become corporate shills they moment they agree to play NCAA sports. That corporation being the NCAA.

    …I take back what I said.
    I have to wear my company’s logo / product (which I actually really like and am proud of), I get my cable and internet free, my health benefits are outstanding (and paid for), and I get other perks…and I all I have to do is work, so what I have to wear a uniform…I 100% withdraw what I said originally!

    Corporate shill and proud!!

    Or, maybe it’ll be a signal to actually build better sneakers.

    Back in the day, 1980s era Air Force, among other higher end hoops shoes, had stitching around the sole plus adhesive to secure the leather upper to the sole.

    Now, it’s just adhesive. Most aren’t even leather. Shoes are lighter and have more advanced cushioning, but they’re junk comparatively.

    There’s the story.

    The hockey player wearing the Penn practice jersey with #5 on it is former NHL tough guy-turned-referee Paul Stewart.


    I’m just imagining the screening possibilities with the black skirts some of those Hutterite women are wearing. Goalie can’t see the puck at all and then *woosh*…


    …also looks like numbers 6 and 14 aren’t wearing helmets??

    Couldn’t tell if their goalie had a skirt on.


    Would be good five-hole coverage if the goalie had a skirt on.

    Kind of like how John Garrett used to wear the long jersey with the Canucks. Pushed the rules as for as far as jersey length to his advantage.


    My summary of the MLB redesign is “What The Actual F*** is this?!?”

    Then I realized someone got paid to do it, and now I am totally depressed.

    To be fair, Williamson is listed at 280 pounds. He might be closer to 295 by now. That sorta weight/athleticism is bound to put some strain on shoes. He probably needs to slim down to the 250 range.

    I’m hoping he withdraws from Duke today and starts prepping for the NBA draft.

    Quit on his teammates? Apparently that’s acceptable to many in this era. Sad, selfish and pathetic.

    What do you think he’s gonna do ’til June, stay inside and have mommy ‘n daddy protect him? He’s gonna ‘prep’ by playing ball… and he might as well do it with a chance to win a championship at the highest ‘amateur’ level (wink, wink, we all know he received $ from Coach K’s cronies).

    What’s interesting to me about all those Nike-related tweets is that they seem to have a hopeful tone, like people WANT Nike to fail. I don’t think anyone wants a college basketball player to fail (except maybe UNC fans in this case).

    Oh, and as someone who spends a fair amount of time trading in the stock market, I can assure you this incident will not affect Nike’s stock at all.

    What’s interesting to me about all those Nike-related tweets is that they seem to have a hopeful tone, like people WANT Nike to fail.

    The more I think about it, the more I think this is the sports equivalent of celebrity gossip/obsession. Nike is the celebrity here, and the buzz surrounding them is the same buzz that keeps People magazine in business.

    surprised you didn’t pick up on this under the A’s section

    “Cleveland’s baseball team was once named after Nap Lajoie, so this team should be named after Billy Beane — and that sweet green color that is all their own. “

    “I wanted to know how the skirts looked in action.” First time in history that phrase was used in reference to women’s ice hockey.

    Sorry. Not huge basketball guy. No name recognition for me.
    had to Google him. Currently in Panama or Paraguay or something. ???

    The Hutterite story is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. Just amazing. I loved it so much. Between the Nazis in MSG film last week and this story, I’m reminded of why this is the first stop for me every morning.

    Well done, Paul, keep up the great work!

    Nike stock price down 1% midday. Folks were attributing it to the rest of the market being down, but now the market is in an uptick and Nike is still down.

    I agree with you Paul. The poor kid may have screwed up his knee quite badly. Having had a torn ACL, I can tell you it ain’t a fun recovery. But all our “Social Media” clowns can do is make fun of Zion, Nike and Duke.

    Makes me pine for an old timey newspaper.

    I’m a Sparky Anderson fan, so I went to look at that “iron throne” bobblehead mentioned in the Ticker. That’s actually current manager Ron Gardenhire on the throne. The Sparky bobblehead is a different giveaway and is not pictured.

    Late to the comments on this…

    I don’t say this lightly, because I’m a business guy, but I’m tired of the “business” take on things. I don’t care about the impact of Zion’s injury on Nike. I don’t care about the intersection between Kaepernick’s protest and commerce. I just don’t care about the impact of Zion or Kap on “Business”.

    I blame a certain SI columnist, very active on Twitter, for normalizing the idea that everything has a “brand” angle to be discussed, sometimes before anything else. For turning every story into a business story. I sometimes imagine what that guy’s ice-cold takes would have been on big cultural moments like Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics, or the Miracle on Ice.


    I fully expect the Jaguars to wear throwback jerseys in their 25th anniversary season especially now they’ve ditched the two tone helmets. Those Mark Brunell era uniforms were an absolute modern classic

    It’s not every day you get to see an umlaut on a city name on a baseball jersey, but the Lamigo Monkeys of Taoyüan (桃園), Taiwan, have some link which have this feature.

    They borrowed the blue-and-pink colors from Taoyüan’s subway system, and the underarm panels (could do without those) have the city’s post code sublimated into them.

    And keeping the umlaut shows a bit of pride in the face of Mainland China, who aggressively promotes the other Romanization system that strips the umlaut out of this word (you just have to know to pronounce it).

    They’ll be wearing this in their exhibitions in Japan too.

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