This past weekend was the 30th anniversary of the banning of Nike’s black and red colorway made famous by none other than Michael Jordan. Considering the vast impact that Air Jordan’s had (and still have) on sneaker culture, music – Hip-Hop in particular, and sports not limited to just basketball, there’s no surprise that something so monumental first began with a resistance from authority – the NBA.

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“A player must wear shoes that not only match their uniforms, but match the shoes worn by their teammates.”

That statement was made by NBA league officials regarding the flamboyant black and red that covered both the Nike Air Jordan and Nike Air Ship. To those unaware, Nike’s Air Ship was the first shoe worn by Michael Jordan as a Chicago Bull. It donned the coveted black and red colorway that has since become synonymous with the Jordan Brand. With the future in mind, Nike paid a fine for each game that Jordan would wear the color combo. Each fine was at least $5,000.


Unlike the NFL who is often tied, contractually, to their sponsors and incorporate fines to deter players from going against a uniform code that they feel is fair to all, the NBA’s fine was served only to enforce the rule.

However, Michael Jordan’s game continued to improve since entering the league in ’84, making the payment of a $5,000 fine – which, in today’s dollar amount including inflation, would equal $11,502.91 – easily feasible for a now $2 billion dollar business.

Despite his retirement in 2003, Michael Jordan’s influence has transcended much further than basketball, baseball, and golf – three sports that Jordan has played and expressed a love for. With quality professional players ranging from the NFL to MLB, and also prominent music artists including Drake, Usher, and Macklemore, Jordan is doing it all over again; creating his own rules.

A great example that mirrors Michael Jordan and his controversial shoes in ’84 is Michael Crabtree and his Jordan Shoes in 2014. More specifically, Crabtree was fined for wearing blue cleats in this year’s season opener in Dallas against the Cowboys. When asked about the decision to wear blue cleats — that happened to be Air Jordan’s — by CSN Bay Area’s Mindi Bach on 49ers Post-Game Live, Crabtree replied with:

“Blue shoes? It was really for my foundation. I’m going to auction them off for my foundation. All the Texas people here. That’s really what I do with my cleats. So it was a good look, but I hope they (the NFL) don’t come down on me too hard.”

As per Rule number 5, section 4, article 3(g) in the official rulebook regarding on-field footwear: “All players on the same team must wear shoes with the same dominant color. Approved shoe styles will contain one team color which must be the same for all players on a given team. A player may wear an unapproved standard football shoe style as long as the player tapes over the entire shoe to conform to his team’s selected dominant color.”


Whereas Nike paid a fine to support the upcoming talent that was a 23-year-old Michael Jordan, 30 years later, professional football players are able to use a similar rule-breaking template to contribute to youth development programs, such as Michael Crabtree’s Crab 5 Foundation.


Jamaal Fisher (@jamaalfisher)