Earlier this year, Nike sued MSCHF Product Studio over the limited-edition “Satan Shoes” that it released in collaboration with Lil Nas X, to promote the rapper’s “Montero” single. Now, the 22-year-old artist has insisted that the legal confrontation will see him head to court – though the statement appears to be part of an elaborate promotional effort for a different single yet.
Nike took aim at the “Satan Shoes” – which were simply modified Air Max 97s, complete with “red embroidered satanic-themed detailing,” a pentagram, a drop of human blood, and a more than $1,000 price tag – in a firmly worded complaint in late March. Emphasizing that it hadn’t given Brooklyn-based MSCHF or Lil Nas X permission to alter and release the sneakers, the Beaverton, Oregon-based company secured a restraining order against the shoes in early April.
A Nike-MSCHF settlement arrived shortly thereafter, seemingly involving little more than a “voluntary” recall and MSCHF’s formally assuming responsibility for any customer complaints or health concerns stemming from the product. (The PR implications of the shoes, which many angry customers thought that Nike itself had released, appeared to be a key part of the lawsuit.) Predictably, few fans complied with the optional return – the satanic kicks had sold out long before the recall order came about – and others yet shelled out astronomical sums for the shoes on resale websites.
In any event, notwithstanding the settlement between Nike and MSCHF as well as the fact that Lil Nas X himself wasn’t a party to the suit, the artist suggested in a series of social-media posts that he would participate in a court hearing today in connection with the athletic-gear company’s legal action.
To be sure, on-screen text in one Lil Nas X TikTok video reads: “When you have court on monday over satan shoes and might go to jail but your label tells you to keep making tiktoks.” However, this and similar messages look to have been components of a broader marketing strategy, as initially mentioned, because Lil Nas X also released a two-minute-long video today, entitled “Nike v. Lil Nas X – Satan Shoes Trial.”
The comedic clip, which depicts Lil Nas X appearing before a jury (while playing several other roles besides himself) in a hypothetical courtroom battle with Nike, had already racked up a staggering 330,000 or so YouTube views and 200,000 Twitter likes at the time of this piece’s publishing. Moreover, the artist likewise launched a “Free Lil Nas X” website and made clear, both in the video and other posts yet, that he’ll release a new single (featuring Jack Harlow and produced by Kanye West) on Friday.
Given the video’s timing and subject matter, it seems that this was the “court appearance” that Lil Nas X had mentioned. But because said subject matter is based in reality – there was in fact a legal dustup with Nike over the shoes – and the creator has continued to promote the topic using earnest language, a number of fans are under the impression that a Lil Nas X-Nike hearing is actually occurring.
“all jokes aside i can’t believe i might be going to jail. who’s going to make mildly funny tweets about being gay while i’m away,” the “Old Town Road” artist wrote today.
“All @LilNasX did was customize a Nike shoe and resell. Is @Hanes gonna also now sue all influencers and musicians for doing the same to there [sic] tshirts? #freelilnasx,” one supporter penned.
“They really out here trying to put Nas in jail for some shoes. Nike isn’t just being racist, they’re being homophobic. Let’s put the CEO of Nike in jail for using slave labor in China. #FreeLilNasX,” stated another individual.
“I’m not #FreeLilNasX because of the whole Human blood thing, I’m #FreeLilNasX because f–k Nike and big corpos, and Lil Nas X is seriously a good musician,” weighed in a third person.
“I’m so confused is @LilNasX actually doing a court case or is it just for a music video or smth,” authored a fourth and final social-media user.
Needless to say, Nike higher-ups probably won’t find the marketing campaign (and the resulting criticism of their company) as amusing as so many fans have, and it remains to be seen whether the occurrence will spur further legal action. Similarly, in the unlikely event that the video coincided with a genuine court hearing involving Nike and Lil Nas X, filings should soon become publicly available.
On the latter front, it bears mentioning in conclusion that Lil Nas X seems to have a penchant for turning kernels of truth into (promotionally effective) topics of conversation, for he rallied his fans in mid-April by relaying that “all the streaming services” were preparing to remove his “Montero” track. Ultimately, the temporary takedown looked to affect certain platforms in a select few countries, not including the U.S.