Who is to blame for violence surrounding Air Jordans?

File image: Nike Jordans shoes

February 19, 2013 12:53:44 PM PST
In the middle of the NBA All-Star weekend festivities in Houston, Michael Jordan released his newest shoe, the Air Jordan 28. They sold out in a matter of hours and are already on eBay for around $500 a pair.

Air Jordans are notorious for the violence and chaos that ensues when a new version is released. We sat down with a shoe collector and a shoe store owner to talk about the craze for the sneakers and about ways to curb the violence.

A Houston attorney, who we'll call "Axel," sports a tie, slacks and loafers at work, but when he leaves his office he steps into his favorite hobby.

"Sneaker collecting," Axel said.

From rows of sneakers kept in glass cases to stacks kept in a closet, his "shoe game" is extensive.

"If I had to estimate it's between two and three hundred. It's to the point where I have to have them shipped to my office and my wife doesn't know I'm getting them," said Axel.

His wife is a part of his sneaker world, too.

"It actually said Will you marry me on the shoe," Axel said, explaining his wedding proposal.

Axel's foot gear is some of the rarest.

"There are only 100 pairs of these in the world and I have two," he said.

And the most expensive around like the ones now on eBay for nearly $10,000. But among his collection are some of the most popular and sought after sneakers -- Nike's Air Jordans.

"This is the shoes Michael wore in '96 when he finally came back," said Axel. "Actually I was involved in a pretty big riot at a highland mall in Austin, not to get those."

The Air Jordan sneaker is no stranger to controversy and late last year in Houston, things turned deadly.

"It breaks my heart to see that kind of thing happen," said store owner Thomas Nauls.

He runs a thriving sneaker boutique in downtown Houston.

"I've never carried Jordans and it was a conscious decision when I opened the store in 2007 and going forward. I could already see a disturbing pattern and particularly in Houston," Nauls said.

So now he's calling attention to what he feels is a big problem. Nauls says it's a disgrace for anyone to commit a violent act over a sneaker but he says when it comes to the violence, he believes part of the blame lies somewhere else.

"I don't think that Jordan is doing enough as a brand in order to protect the integrity of what Jordan is supposed to represent," he said.

Nauls believes part of the problem is continuously limiting the number of Air Jordan shoes released. He calls it irresponsible.

"It creates this hysteria and it's great from a marketing standpoint, but then they don't think of the ramifications," said Nauls. "At a certain point if there's a pattern, you want to do everything you could to maybe investigate or look into that pattern, to do everything you can as a brand to keep that from happening. That's just good business."

Eyewitness News reached out to Nike and the Air Jordan brand for its response, and to ask what it is doing to curb the violence. We received a statement which read, "Consumer safety is of paramount importance to us. We continue to work with our retail partners to share best practices and refine our launch process to improve the buying experience for our consumers. We encourage people wishing to purchase our products to do so in a respectful manner."

While Axel believes the problem is not with the Air Jordan brand, but with people trying to re-sell the shoes, he and Nauls both agree the violence shines a bad light on sneaker collectors and say it needs to stop.

"A true sneaker collector would never commit an act of violence against another sneaker collector or anyone else," said Nauls.

Axel told us, "My experience in the sneaker community has been a whole lot different from that. It's frustrating that all you see are people killing each other."

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