Nike Inc. has been dismissed as a defendant in one of two lawsuits filed by a woman who alleged the shoe company was jointly liable with a shoe store in the death of her 26-year-old son, who was shot to death during a 2021 sneaker promotion event.
Jessica Bradford’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Nike and Shoe Palace alleged both defendants shared responsibility for a “sneaker violence” culture that targeted Black youths and led to the death of her son, Jayren Bradford.
On Thursday, Judge Douglas W. Stern granted Nike’s motion to be removed as a defendant in the case, dismissing the plaintiff’s claim for wrongful/death negligence as well as her survival action.
Los Angeles police previously said that on Aug. 11, 2021, an argument among a group of men and women began during a shoe raffle in front of the Melrose Avenue store. A co-worker called the off-duty Bradford for help and when he arrived around 12:30 p.m., he was confronted by the group, and a 16- year-old boy pulled out a gun and shot him.
Many flocked to the Nike raffle to win a chance at obtaining the right to purchase a pair of Nike limited-release sneakers and, in the end, a pair of Nike “Dunk Low” shoes, leading to Bradford’s death, according to the suit.
“Assuming arguendo, that Nike did require Shoe Palace to organize a raffle, the murder of decedent was not a necessary component of the raffle, nor was the accompanying violence,” Stern wrote in his ruling. “Therefore, Nike had no duty to protect against it.”
The judge also found that the survival action is derivative of the wrongful death action and therefore he was dismissing it as well.
Bradford was his mother’s “artistic and kind-natured son who was generally liked by all,” but compared to her “indescribable pain and loss,” none of the defendants suffered any loss, the suit states.
“In fact, defendants Nike and Nike USA garnered revenue of approximately $12.2 billion during this time period,” the suit states. “This is money stained red by the tragic loss of Jayren.”
Shoe companies such as Nike capitalize on the magic of shoes and have intensified this mystique by placing prominent people of color at the center of their marketing efforts, much of which is targeted at those in the inner cities, the suit states.
“Dubbed `sneaker violence’ by the mainstream media, this phenomenon plagues young people, especially those of color,” the suit states while also noting that Nike’s 1989 television and print advertisements featured Michael Jordan, widely admired in the Black community and his Air Jordan shoe.
“The common thread of these particular advertisements was to `Be like Mike,”‘ the suit states. “To this end, shoes and their makers have created divides among races and social classes with the birth of specialty and designer sneakers like Nike Air Jordans, which have come to represent not only a fashion statement but a symbol of status.”
But fashion status and “being like Mike” has come at a cost, and in 2015, 1,200 young Americans died because of violence surrounding shoes like the Nike Air Jordan and other popular brands, according to the suit.
None of the suit’s defendants implemented safety measures, policies, procedures or training, even though violence at Nike shoe release events is reasonably foreseeable, the suit alleges.
“As a result of these failures, Jayren lost his life, leaving his family, his girlfriend and his co-workers who witnessed the shooting in emotional turmoil,” according to the complaint.
A case management conference on the remainder of Bradford’s first lawsuit is scheduled for Feb. 15. Bradford filed a second lawsuit against Nike and Shoe Palace on behalf of her son’s estate in August, and a Dec. 15 case management conference is scheduled in that case.