A corporate sponsorship deal has resulted in Derek Chauvin, the man alleged to have killed George Floyd, being ordered to wear Lil Nas X’s Satan Shoes during his trial.
In 2007, Nike sponsored the Hennepin County District Court in Minnesota, and it was renamed “The Hennepin County District Court Brought to You by Nike.” It was part of a running shoes promotional campaign called “swift justice.”
Key to the sponsorship deal was that everyone involved in court proceedings, including the judge, jury, witnesses, defendant and defense and prosecution teams, can only wear Nike shoes when court is in session.
Nike had originally been enthused about the trial of Derek Chauvin, who is facing a murder trial in their sponsored court this week. Acquiring rights to his likeness via the court, the shoe company briefly ran ads featuring the iconic image of Chauvin standing on George Floyd’s neck with the caption “we do what we have to do – believe it” aside the Nike swoosh.
However, fans of the brand took offense at the ad, claiming that Nike was endorsing killing black people. Nike scrambled to clean up the PR fallout; they issued a statement condemning Chauvin, adding that they will compel The Hennepin County District Court Brought to You by Nike to seek the death penalty. Part of the image rehabilitation campaign involved ordering the court to bar Chauvin from wearing Nikes during his trial.
No shoes other than Nike can be worn during the trial. This meant that Chauvin would have to appear in court without shoes, something that the defense said would “make him look like a bum.”
While court was deliberating Monday morning, Chauvin stood by with nothing but socks on his feet as his most powerful attorney, Eric J. Nelson, argued with Judge Peter Cahill.
Cahill appeared resolute as he confirmed that the court would not violate their sponsorship deal with Nike. The judge wore a LeBron James jersey over his robes, and Nike brand policy dictates that he be referred to as “Your Highness” instead of the standard “Your Honor” as a reference to Nike’s “King James” branding of the basketballer.
“Your Highness, my client has a right to shoes under title 17 of the village council,” Nelson said.
The prosecution resisted the motion, with lead prosecutor Jerry W. Blackwell asking: “how are you going to talk all that shit you be talking when your boy ain’t got no shoes on his feet, looking like a motherf–king bum in this bitch? Your bitch ass best sit your white ass down before your boy loses his socks too.”
“Shieeeeet,” Blackwell added.
“Your honor, the gentleman speaks to the issue I’m trying to adjudicate. My client has a right to shoes,” Nelson continued.
This was when Judge Cahill remembered a news item he’d seen earlier that morning, and offered it as a solution: “I saw this morning that Nike distanced itself from Satan Shoes by Nike. If they’ve distanced themselves, but they’re still Nikes, the court might allow it.” Cahill was already dialing his cellphone while finishing the sentence. He retreated into the chamber briefly, and reemerged.
“Nike says we’re a go on Satan Shoes and they’re sending them over,” he said, slamming the court desk and adding, “Boom!”
But the defense protested: “Your highness, my client has not consented to wear Satan Shoes.”
“Well, it’s better than what he’s got now,” the judge retorted, “which is nothing.”
“Your highness, my client deserves reputable shoes,” the lawyer continued.
“Overruled!” the judge shouted.
“My client should not be associated with Satan,” continued the protests.
“Well, he did kill that black guy,” the judge replied smugly.
“Damn straight he did,” the prosecution chimed in agreement.
“He’s certainly no Jesus,” the judge chuckled.
“Well, neither was George Floyd,” the lawyer hit back.
The court went silent until someone in the audience yelled: “Oh no he didn’t!”
The judge finally said: “Well, I hope the jury agrees with you, because that’s not what I saw on TV. What I saw on TV was that George Floyd was very much like Jesus, and that your client murdered him, just like the-,” the judge stopped mid-sentence.
His sentence was finished by the prosecution: “The Jews! The Jews killed Jesus!”
Blackwell paused, and then apologized, “I should not have said that.”
The judge coughed uncomfortably, before turning to the bailiff and asking that the Jewish murder of Christ be stricken from the court record. The bailiff confirmed the request, and the judge said, “I’m still gonna have to call the ADL, or I’m gonna be the one getting crucified” as he pulled out his phone and disappeared into the chamber.
When he emerged, Blackwell and Nelson both asked him how the call went.
“Not as well as the call with Nike, frankly,” the judge said. “But we’ll be alright.”
“Oh,” the judge added, “Greenblatt agreed that the defendant is going to need to wear the Satan Shoes.”
Nelson squinted at the judge: “You sold us out.”
“Look,” the judge said, “I had to give them something, or we were all gonna hang. I’m sure your client’s jovial nature can overcome the stain of Satan Shoes.”
“I ain’t even know why I said that,” Blackwell said, looking contrite. “I was gonna say your boy should be allowed to wear Reeboks. But you know now he gotta wear them Satan Shoes. Ain’t got no choice. I’m gonna let you win in the first round of the court now. I feel guilty, man.”
Nelson nodded solemnly as the bailiff brought out the Satan Shoes for his client.