Nike is suing the maker of the viral Satan Shoes created in collaboration with Lil Nas X, claiming the sneakers' unsanctioned devilish theme is damaging to the company's brand.
MSCHF, a company behind a variety of viral stunts, announced it was dropping exactly 666 limited-edition pairs of the Satan Shoes, altered versions of the Nike Air Max 97s that feature red embroidery on the side, a bronze pentagram attached to the laces, a new red sock liner, and red ink with exactly one drop of human blood in the sneaker's midsole.
The shoes were launched in part to promote Lil Nas X's new music video for "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)." The song is the rapper's most public embrace of his sexuality and a rejection of the forces that once kept him closeted. In the video, he pole dances to hell and gives the devil a lap dance.
"People will be angry, they will say i’m pushing an agenda," he wrote on Twitter after the song debuted. "But the truth is, i am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be."
The shoes reportedly sold out on Monday within a minute at a whopping price of more than $1,000 each. Hours later, Nike filed a lawsuit, asking a court to stop MSCHF from actually distributing the shoes. Nike is also asking the company to pay for the "damage" done to its brand for making significant changes to the original Air Max 97 design without its "approval or authorization."
"Nike has not and does not approve or authorize MSCHF's customized Satan Shoes," the company's attorneys wrote in the complaint. "Decisions about what products to put the SWOOSH on belong to Nike, not to third parties like MSCHF."
Nike also alleged that the satanic details were likely to be considered sanctioned by the massive shoe company, noting that there had already been "significant confusion," including calls to boycott the brand "based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorized or approved this product."
To back up its claim that its brand was being hurt by the Satanic Shoes, Nike's court filing included screenshots of online comments from people promising not to buy Nike products in the future.
"💯💯crazy they need Jesus," one person wrote.
Another comment showed someone claiming, "I WILL NEVER WEAR ANOTHER PAIR OF NIKE AN IM THROWING AWAY ALL THE ONES I HAVE NOW...WHAT A DISGRACE THIS IS PURE EVIL.."
"In the short time since the announcement of the Satan Shoes, Nike has suffered significant harm to its goodwill, including among consumers who believe that Nike is endorsing satanism," Nike claimed in the suit.
MSCHF did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment regarding the suit. (The company's founder was formerly a BuzzFeed advertising employee.)
The company previously went viral for another modified Nike, the Jesus Shoes, which did not prompt a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Lil Nas X has been leaning into the controversy with some masterful trolling, and he has responded to news of the lawsuit with memes on Twitter.
He's also defended his music, telling critics, "I am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. That is your job."
Conservative outlets and personalities, including Fox News hosts, have been among the most prominent critics of the shoes.
"Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it's 'exclusive,'" South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted. "But do you know what's more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul."
In one Monday morning segment on Fox & Friends, host Pete Hegseth interjected after a news report of the shoes to tell the audience, "You know who makes them? Nike."
He decried what he called "Nike-made Satan Shoes," adding, "I'm not kidding. Look it up."
His claim, however, was immediately corrected by the show's meteorologist, Adam Klotz, who correctly said, "They're not really Nike. They're Nike shoes, but there's a middleman who bought Nike shoes and is turning them into these. Nike is not making these shoes. I'm positive about that."
Nike is also asking to collect any profits made by MSCHF from the sale of the shoes.
"MSCHF has attempted to capitalize on Nike's valuable reputation and customer goodwill by using the Nike Asserted Marks and/or confusingly similar marks in a manner that is likely to cause consumers and potential customers to believe that MSCHF Satan Shoes are associated with Nike, when they are not," the suit reads.