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Punxploitation’s not dead—at least not if Nike Inc. has anything to say about it. Last week, the Oregon-based footwear-and-athletic-apparel giant unveiled promotional materials for its three-date Major Threat East Coast Tour, which rolls into the District on July 2 for a skateboarding-and-stylish-shoe showcase outside Northeast nightclub Dream. The high-contrast, black-on-blue ads depict a bald young man sitting on a staircase, hunched over, head down, arms folded upon his knees.
The pose, some Washingtonians might notice, is virtually identical to the one once struck by a chrome-domed Alec MacKaye and captured by photographer Susie Josephson for the cover of a certain local record. Well, except for the Nike-branded skateboard placed prominently to the poster boy’s left. And that pair of white Nike Zoom Air Paul Rodriguez signature sneaks subbing for MacKaye’s classic crust-punk combat boots. And the way the image reads “MAJOR” instead of “MINOR” down the side.
Otherwise, there you have it: The front of Minor Threat’s self-titled first EP, the legendary, movement-galvanizing third release MacKaye’s brother Ian MacKaye put out on his own Dischord Records way back in 1981. But with more swooshes.
Alerted by an “angry e-mail” from a fan who’d noticed Nike’s not-so-original artwork while perusing the Web site of skateboarding mag Thrasher, Dischord spokesperson Alec Bourgeois on June 24 issued a stern statement: “To set the record straight—Nike never contacted Dischord to obtain permission to use this imagery, nor was any permission granted. Simply put, Nike stole it and we’re not happy about it.”
Aside from making that formal denouncement, however, the zealously DIY label has yet to take any action. “We are kind of allowing it to play itself out a little bit so we have a better perspective on how to deal with it,” says Bourgeois, who also notes that since that first e-mail, Dischord has received at least 200 more, as well as “dozens of calls and about 10 offers from various lawyers.”
According to Kevin Imamura, a spokesperson for Nike’s skateboarding division, the campaign wasn’t the brainchild of some boardroom-entrenched corporate ad hacks tossing out ideas to connect with the kids. Rather, it was “designed, executed and promoted by skateboarders, for skateboarders.” Nonetheless, on June 27, he issued a formal apology to Minor Threat, Dischord, and “fans of both.”
“Because of the album’s strong imagery and because our East Coast tour ends in Washington DC, we felt that it was a perfect fit,” his apology states. “This was a poor judgment call and should not have been executed without consulting Minor Threat and Dischord Records.”
The company has since tried to rid the streets of its offensive imagery, recalling promo materials from skate shops and removing them from its Web site. “We’ve pulled all our fliers,” says Greg, the proprietor of Nike-authorized dealer Elite Boardshop in Fairfax, who refused to give his last name. “I don’t think they’re gonna use ‘Major Threat’ anymore.”
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Of course, in the fuck-the-system world of skateboarding, it’s not unusual for manufacturers to adorn their wares with adapted rock graphics. “Skateboard companies have been doin’ rip-offs for years,” says Nate Musson, a manager of Frederick skate shop Pitcrew. He notes, for instance, that Los Angeles’ Baker Skateboards once co-opted a Cramps logo. Baker’s Web site also shows off deck designs inspired by Nirvana and David Bowie.
To Musson, the Nike ad is “no big deal.”
“I think it’s funny,” he says. “And it’s really funny that someone’s upset about it.”
In an effort to remain equally cheerful about intellectual-property issues, S&T offers some other classic Dischord covers ripe for the corporate picking.
Disc: In on the Kill Taker (1993)
Ad Potential: If the sight of the Washington Monument inspires the right moment, will you be ready? You can be with prescription Cialis, “the only [erectile dysfunction] tablet clinically proven to both work up to 36 hours and work in some men as fast as 30 minutes,” according to the product’s Web site. Sure, straightedgers might take issue with the Eli Lilly product’s intended violation of the whole “don’t fuck” rule. But you can’t say the pill’s mission isn’t totally hard-core. (WARNING: In the rare event of an erection exceeding 555 feet, seek immediate medical attention.)
Artist: Marginal Man
Disc: Identity (1984)
Ad Potential: Apple Computer Inc. can always use a few more shady types to shill for “the world’s most popular digital music player.” A bit different from the company’s usual rollerskating or poppin’-and-lockin’ forms, these stationary dudes would appeal to more serious iPod buyers—y’know, the kind that would rather dance to “Emotional Scars” than “Jerk It Out.”
Artist: Q and Not U
Disc: No Kill No Beep Beep (2000)
Ad Potential: Looks like this party needs a little livenin’ up! Enter the Captain—Captain Morgan, that is, the buccaneer-turned- booze-icon with an itchin’ to scribble mustaches and goatees on people’s faces. S&T can spot a few prospective Morganettes in the crowd already.
Disc: The View From This Tower (2000)
Ad Potential: Having
pretty much cornered the market on pricey lofts for the white-collar gentrifier, PN Hoffman, “Washington’s premier developer of upscale residential and mixed-use properties,” can now extend condo-mongering into the sought-after bohemian demographic. Stainless appliances—sooo punk-rock.
Disc: Flex Your Head (1982)
Ad Potential: Breathing in all those particulate pollutants, respiratorially compromised D.C. scenesters are gonna need something to counter those “seasonal allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes.” Allegra is a “powerful” yet “nonsedating” antihistamine, according to the product’s Web site—ideal
for pogoing the night away to the sounds of early D.C. hardcore. Remember, S.O.A. may hate the kids, but Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc. loves them: “Q: CAN CHILDREN TAKE ALLEGRA? A: Children ages 6– 11 can take
30 mg twice daily.”CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Artwork by Alice Lewis and Pete Morelewicz.