Nike succeeded in its efforts to stop the sale of the art collective MSCHF's "Satan Shoes," which were designed in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X, as a judge granted the company's request for a temporary restraining order on Wednesday. Lil Nas X was not happy about it, arguing that "freedom of expression" has "gone out the window" after the shoes faced intense backlash online and from conservative politicians. The controversial shoes were based on Nike's Air Max 97s, and each shoe included a drop of real human blood.
The shoes went on sale Monday and sold out within minutes. Only 666 were produced, with the last pair held back for a Twitter contest. Now, Lil Nas X and MSCHF will not be allowed to sell that last pair. "Sorry guys I'm legally not allowed to give the 666th pair away anymore because of the crying nerds on the internet," Lil Nas X wrote on Thursday.
sorry guys i’m legally not allowed to give the 666th pair away anymore because of the crying nerds on the internet https://t.co/URoj0kGnRq— nope 🏹 (@LilNasX) April 1, 2021
In a follow-up tweet, the "Old Town Road" rapper added, "I haven't been upset until today, I feel like it's f—ed up they have so much power they can get shoes [canceled]. freedom of expression gone out the window. But that's gonna change soon." Lil Nas X's tweet was a swipe directed at conservatives who complain about "cancel culture."
Almost immediately after the shoes went on sale, Nike filed a copyright infringement lawsuit and made sure the Satan Shoes' critics knew it was not involved in their creation. The shos were created "without Nike's approval or authorization, and Nike is in no way connected to this project," the company noted in its lawsuit. In the filing, the company pointed to social media critics and noted some people claimed they would never buy Nike products.
i haven’t been upset until today, i feel like it’s fucked up they have so much power they can get shoes cancelled. freedom of expression gone out the window. but that’s gonna change soon.— nope 🏹 (@LilNasX) April 1, 2021
On Wednesday, the U.S. District Court in New York granted Nike's request to halt the sale of the shoes. "Nike filed a trademark infringement and dilution complaint against MSCHF today related to the Satan Shoes," Nike said in a statement to CBS News. "We don't have any further details to share on pending legal matters. However, we can tell you we do not have a relationship with Lil Nas X or MSCHF. The Satan Shoes were produced without Nike's approval or authorization, and Nike is in no way connected with this project."
During a hearing on Thursday, MSCHF's lawyer said that most of the 665 shoes sold were already shipped to consumers, but Nike's lawyer had "serious doubts" the collective was able to do that. Even if they could, Nike's attorney argued that the shoes still caused "irreparable harm" to the brand because shipping the shoes would not stop "post-sale confusion and delusion" from Nike customers. The Nike lawyer said MSCHF never publicly distanced the shoes from Nike and included the swoosh logo in marketing. Nike has also demanded MSCHF intercept orders already in transit.
As for MSCHF, its lawyers noted that the collective previously released "Jesus Shoes" based on the same Nike shoe but did not face a lawsuit then. "Heresy only exists in relation to doctrine," the company told CBS News. "Who is Nike to censor one but not the other?" The lawyers also said most of the Satan Shoes buyers would not wear a $1,018 pair of shoes but would display them as art. But Nike then pointed to Miley Cyrus' March 28 Instagram post in which she wore them, and her post has over 1.6 million likes.
The Satan Shoes was part of Lil Nas X's promotion for his latest single, "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," which itself caused controversy because of the provocative music video featuring Satan. "I'll be honest all this backlash is putting an emotional toll on me," the rapper tweeted on March 29. "I try to cover it with humor but it's getting hard. my anxiety is higher than ever and stream 'Call Me By Your Name' on all platforms now!"