Surprisingly, Air Jordans Cause Scuffles in Stores

Air JordansFights, vandalism and arrests marked the
release of Nike’s new Air Jordan basketball shoes as a shopping rush on
stores across the country led to unrest that nearly turned into rioting.


The outbursts of chaos
stretched from Washington state to Georgia as shoppers – often waiting
for hours in lines – converged on stores Friday in pursuit of the shoes,
a retro model of one of the most popular Air Jordans ever made.

In
suburban Seattle, police used pepper spray on about 20 customers who
started fighting at the Westfield Southcenter mall. The crowd started
gathering at four stores in the mall around midnight and had grown to
more than 1,000 people by 4 a.m., when the stores opened, Tukwila
Officer Mike Murphy said. He said it started as fighting and pushing
among people in line and escalated over the next hour.

Murphy
said no injuries were reported, although some people suffered cuts or
scrapes from fights. Shoppers also broke two doors, and 18-year-old man
was arrested for assault after authorities say he punched an officer.

“He did not get his shoes; he went to jail,” Murphy said.

The
mayhem was reminiscent of the violence that broke out 20 years ago in
many cities as the shoes became popular targets for thieves. It also had
a decidedly Black Friday feel as huge crowds of shoppers overwhelmed
stores for a must-have item.

In some areas,
lines began forming several hours before businesses opened for the $180
shoes that were selling in a limited release.

As the crowds kept growing through the night, they became more unruly and ended in vandalism, violence and arrests.

A
man was stabbed when a brawl broke out between several people waiting
in line at a Jersey City, N.J., mall to buy the new shoes, authorities
said. The 20-year-old man was expected to recover from his injuries.

In
Richmond, Calif., police say crowds waiting to buy the Air Jordan 11
Retro Concords at the Hilltop Mall were turned away after a gunshot rang
out around 7 a.m.

No injuries were reported,
but police said a 24-year-old suspect was taken into custody. The gun
apparently went off inadvertently, the Contra Costa Times reported.

Seventeen-year-old
Dylan Pulver in Great Neck, N.Y., said he’s been looking forward to the
release of the shoes for several years, and he set out at 4:30 a.m. to
get a pair. After the first store he tried was too crowded, he moved on
to a second location and scored a pair.

“I probably could have used a half a size smaller, but I was just really happy to have the shoe,” he said.

The
frenzy over Air Jordans has been dangerous in the past. Some people
were mugged or even killed for early versions of the shoe, created by
Nike Inc. in 1984.

The Air Jordan has since
been a consistent hit with sneaker fans, spawning a subculture of
collectors willing to wait hours to buy the latest pair. Some collectors
save the shoes for special occasions or never take them out of the box.

A
new edition was launched each year, and release dates had to be moved
to the weekends at some points to keep kids from skipping school to get a
pair.

But the uproar over the shoe had died
down in recent years. These latest incidents seem to be part of trend of
increasing acts of violence at retailers this holiday shopping season,
such as the shopper who pepper-sprayed others at a Wal-Mart in Los
Angeles on Black Friday and crowds looting a clothing store in New York.

Nike
issued a statement in response to the violence that said: “Consumer
safety and security is of paramount importance. We encourage anyone
wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe
manner.”

The retro version of the Air Jordan
11 was a highly sought-after shoe because of the design and the fact
that the original was released in 1996 when Jordan and the Bulls were at
the height of their dominance.

Pulver said they were a “defining shoe in Jordan’s career.”

Other disturbances reported at stores in places like Kentucky and Nebraska ranged from shoving and threats to property damage.

In
Taylor, Mich., about 100 people forced their way into a shopping center
around 5:30 a.m., damaging decorations and overturning benches. Police
say a 21-year-old man was arrested.

In Toledo, Ohio, police said they arrested three people after a crowd surged into a mall.

In
Lithonia, Ga., at least four people were apparently arrested after
customers broke down a door at a store selling the shoes. DeKalb County
police said up to 20 squad cars responded.

In
Northern California, two men were arrested at a Fairfield mall after
crowds shoved each other to get in position for the Nikes, police said.

In
Stockton, Detective Joe Silva said a person was taken into custody at
Weberstown Mall on suspicion of making criminal threats involving the
shoes. Police also were investigating an attempted robbery in the mall’s
parking lot. The victim was wrongly believed to have just purchased Air
Jordans.

In Tukwila, Officer Murphy said the
crowd was on the verge of a riot and would have gotten even more out of
hand if the police hadn’t intervened.

About 25
officers from Tukwila and surrounding areas responded. Murphy said
police smelled marijuana and found alcohol containers at the scene.

“It was not a nice, orderly group of shoppers,” Murphy said. “There were a lot of hostile and disorderly people.”

The Southcenter mall’s stores sold out of the Air Jordans, and all but about 50 people got a pair, Murphy said.

Shoppers described the scene as chaotic and at times dangerous.

Carlisa
Williams said she joined the crowd at the Southcenter for the
experience and ended up buying two pairs of shoes, one for her and one
for her brother. But she said she’ll never do anything like it again.

“I
don’t understand why they’re so important to people,” Williams told
KING-TV. “They’re just shoes at the end of the day. It’s not worth
risking your life over.”

AP
Business Reporter Sarah Skidmore contributed to this report from
Portland, Ore. AP Writer Michelle Price contributed from Phoenix.

Source: Doug Esser, The Associated Press