In an attempt to halt a New York art collective from using their signature “swoosh,” Nike has obtained a temporary restraining order against the makers of “Satan Shoes,” a pair of modified Nikes decorated with symbols of the occult and a drop of human blood.
A US District Court in New York granted Nike’s request this week, a move intended to bar MSCHF, the provocative company that produced the shoes, from fulfilling the rest of its orders.
The “Satan Shoes,” made in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X to coincide with his Hell-set music video for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” were made from modified Nike Air Max 97s and feature a bronze pentagram, an inverted cross and a sole filled with red ink and, according to MSCHF, “one drop of human blood.”
Nike claimed the “Satan Shoes” were “likely to cause confusion and dilution” or cause fans of Nike to believe it worked with MSCHF to create the shoe, the company said in its complaint.
The company also reiterated that, even though the shoes bore Nike’s signature “swoosh,” the company was not involved in the sneakers’ creation and did not endorse them.
“Decisions about what products to put the SWOOSH on belong to Nike, not to third parties like MSCHF,” the complaint read.
An attorney for MSCHF wrote to the court that the shoes were “individually numbered works of art” and argued they were protected under the First Amendment. She also said “all but one pairs of the shoes already have been sold and shipped,” rendering the temporary restraining order unnecessary.
In response, Nike’s attorneys said the “appropriate remedy is … to order a recall of those shoes.”
Though Nike was granted the temporary restraining order this week, MSCHF can still attempt to prove the shoes are protected under First Amendment “rights of artistic expression,” US District Judge Eric Komitee wrote in the order. Until then, though, the final pair of “Satan Shoes” can’t be distributed.
MSCHF and Lil Nas X say they’re surprised and frustrated
The “Satan Shoes” were priced at $1,018 each, around six times the price of a pair of Air Max 97s sold by Nike currently. It’s a reference to the Bible passage Luke 10:18, which reads: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Just 666 pairs of the shoes were produced, and all but one were sold within one minute of their release — Lil Nas X was set to give away the last pair on Twitter, but MSCHF said the giveaway has been indefinitely paused.
MSCHF said it was “honestly surprised by the action Nike has taken” in a statement shared with CNN.
The collective questioned why Nike would request a temporary restraining order spurred by the “Satan Shoes” and not the “Jesus Shoes,” a pair of modified Nike Air Max 97s that featured a steel crucifix and “holy water” that were produced one year earlier.
“MSCHF strongly believes in the freedom of expression, and nothing is more important than our ability, and the ability of other artists like us, to continue with our work over the coming years,” MSCHF said. “We look forward to working with Nike and the court to resolve this case in the most expeditious manner.”
A Nike spokesperson told CNN the company didn’t have “any further details to share on pending legal matters.”
Lil Nas X expressed his frustration with the outcome on Thursday, tweeting that he’s “legally not allowed to give the 666th pair away anymore because of the crying nerds on the internet,” after teasing the giveaway earlier in the week.
“I feel like it’s f****d up they have so much power they can get shoes cancelled,” he wrote. “Freedom of expression gone out the window. But that’s gonna change soon.”
CNN has reached out to representatives for Lil Nas X and is waiting to hear back.