Nike stirs controversy by using a pink triangle on shoes in their Pride collection

Nike has caused controversy by using a pink triangle – most famously used to mark gay men during the Holocaust – on their recent Pride collection.

In May, international athletics brand Nike launched their annual Pride collection shortly before June’s Pride Month.

Nike’s BETRUE collection was launched back in 2012 and has been rereleased each year as part of a mission to make sport inclusive of the LGBT community.


According to the release, this year’s collection features “colours and symbols that have been reclaimed and historically repurposed by the LGBTQ community.”

Most notably, several of the shoes feature a pink triangle which was famously used to mark gay men in the Holocaust.

The collection was announced on Twitter with the caption: “reclaiming the past to empower the future.”


In a release, Nike described the pink triangle as “a shape that has a complex past in LGBTQ culture.”

Nike continued, stating: “originally used to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII, the triangle was reclaimed in the 1970s by pro-gay activists and was later adopted by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in their memorable 1980s-era ‘Silence=Death’ campaign.”

The use of the symbol has received mixed reviews and criticism.

On Twitter, some people highlighted that Nike had not explicitly mentioned the use of the symbol and its role in the Holocaust, which has been criticised as ‘inaccurate.’

(@TheMattComer / Twitter)

One wrote: “Debatable on if Nike should use the pink triangle for commercial purposes, but if they are, they could at least be a little more accurate in describing history.

“‘Originally sued to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII…’ Um, that would be the Holocaust, not simply WWII.”

Others criticised the brand for not donating any of the proceeds of the Pride collection to LGBT charities, with many people stating that Nike should make donations to ACT UP in addition to referencing them in the releases.

(@Jediknitter / Twitter)

One Twitter user wrote: “Firstly, how much are you donating to LGBT rights or groups (using pride)? Secondly, how much are you donating to Holocaust charities (using the pink triangle)? Also, the pink triangle has already been reclaimed.”

Related: Holocaust Memorial Day – The lessons we should learn from the Nazi persecution of gay people

Other users stated that the brand needed to do further research.

(@lhcmiguel / Twitter)

Another user of the micro-blogging platform wrote: “I understood Nike’s intention of support but please stick with using the rainbow. The triangle was used in the Holocaust to oppress us.

“Please thoroughly research symbols of empowerment for minority communities before making collections aiming to celebrate us.”

The collection also uses the colour lavender throughout, in addition to rainbow coloured soles.

Nike stated that the use of lavender was a nod to the LGBT community of the 1970’s.

The athletics company said: “The colour’s historical connotations preceded the rainbow symbol’s widespread popularity in the 1970s, appearing on garments as a kind of quiet language among the community.

“Hints of lavender are detailed across all four of the silhouettes.”

Nike did not return a request for comment from PinkNews.