On March 29, Nike filed a lawsuit against MSCHF, a quirky art collective company that designed Lil Nas X’s infamous “Satan Shoes.” The rapper is not named as a party in the lawsuit, but this still strengthens the massive controversy surrounding him lately.
In the lawsuit, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Nike explains that MSCHF materially altered its trademarked product without permission. The black Air Max 97 shoe sports a gold pentagram on the lace, an inverted cross, a reference to Luke 10:18 on both sides, and a sole that contains one drop of human blood.
“There is already evidence of significant confusion and dilution occurring in the marketplace, including calls to boycott Nike in response to the launch of MSCHF’s Satan Shoes based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorized or approved this product,” Nike says in the complaint.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sportswear brand is seeking statutory, punitive and compensatory damages, alongside asking the court to order that the shoes and related materials be turned over to them for destruction.
This shoe collaboration came after Lil Nas X dropped a visual for his single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” on March 25. The religious-themed video portrays the rapper as a fallen angel who gives the devil a lap dance. To amplify the theme, 666 pairs of shoes were produced. Even with its high price tag of $1,018, the shoes sold out nearly minutes after its release.
When social media erupted in backlash from the video, Lil Nas X entertained all the snarky tweets with playful memes. However, a few days after the lawsuit was announced, the rapper stripped his humor and took to Twitter to point out how Nike’s limiting his freedom of expression. Streetwear businesses such as MSCHF have been thriving for decades with their one-of-a-kind customizations, and if Nike wins this suit, this could potentially shift this art form’s future in the sneaker world.
In 2019, MSCHF sold a “Jesus Shoes” using the same Air Max 97 silhouette for $1,425. The design had a white colorway, blue “holy water” in the sole, and a golden Jesus pendant hanging off the lace. After selling out on the company’s official website, the limited-edition creation was later listed on the third-party retailer, StockX, for a whopping $4,000. In this case, Nike never pursued legal action, which caused users to point out possible hypocrisy.
As of Thursday, April 1, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the unauthorized “Satan Shoe” to halt distribution.