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NBA players step toward equality in limited edition sneakers

From FOX Sports - February 13, 2018

When LeBron James stepped on the court wearing mismatched sneakers in the nations capital, it wasnt a fashion statement by the NBAs most popular athlete. The message was clearly emblazed in gold on the back of his kicks, one white and one black: Equality.

Sneaker enthusiasts around the world eagerly await NBA All-Star weekend when new and limited editions of the latest shoes make their debut, but the month leading up to the highly anticipated shoepalooza is often used to make a social statement.

Starting with Martin Luther King Day and coinciding with Black History Month, players and companies honor the past and create dialogue about the future through footwear.

I just think its more of a paying homage to people that paved the way before me, Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. Its much more than just shoes. Its more so of a memorial more than anything.

Nike, which started building Black History Month campaigns in 2005, has created an entire theme around equality.

Kyrie Irvings fourth signature shoe has the word repeated over and over in black over a white body with a red and green outsole. There are multiple Air Force 1 models with equality on the body, and the Jordan line has been involved from a flyknit Air Jordan 1 to player-only editions of the Air Jordan 32.

Jonathan Johnson-Griffin, the global senior creative director of Nike Basketball and Olympics, says they also wanted to celebrate the Pan-African flag, leading to a red, black and green motif featured on several models that didnt specifically include the word equality. He believes the messages are especially pertinent during divisive times epitomized by the violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Equality is the north star that we want to celebrate in sport, Johnson-Griffin said. We feel like people feel a lot more equalized in sport than sometimes they do outside of sport. We want to celebrate the many chapters of that idea and many different dimensions of how we can celebrate equality. And BHM is a really iconic one.

When you see LeBron making a statement around equality, thats a big invitation to everyone to come celebrate who they are.

Nike isnt the only apparel company celebrating Black History Month. Last year, Adidas honored Arthur Ashe on the James Harden, Damian Lillard and Derrick Rose models. A 2018 collection wasnt created, but Lillards Dame 4 has an edition that honors the Harlem Renaissance with nods to the Apollo Theater and Savoy Ballroom.

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