known for celebrating violence.
Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, meanwhile, has proclaimed New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People,” after a company executive said in 2016 that Trump’s trade policies were a step in the “right direction.”
Many people with extreme beliefs are wearing the brands as a way to signal they are part of the alt-right movement, the researchers said. Wearing the Nazi swastika is banned in many European countries, but hidden messages like these “give the opportunity to walk into the world very safely while overtly displaying their ideologies,” said Peterka-Benton.
Neo-Nazi “skinheads” in Europe were once distinguishable by their shaved heads, chunky military boots and bomber jackets, but later toned down the look because it became socially unacceptable.
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Companies shouldn’t ignore the co-opting of their products or platforms; rather, they need to take immediate action, Benton said.
Some companies behind the products are rejecting the extremist connections. Fred Perry announced in September it would stop selling the co-opted polo shirt in the U.S. and Canada “until we’re satisfied that its association with the Proud Boys has ended.”
Boston-based New Balance issued a statement saying it “does not tolerate bigotry or hate in any form.”
When a white supremacist group in Michigan used the logo of hockey’s Detroit Red Wings at an event, team owners swiftly disavowed the group and threatened legal action.
“You cannot let hate groups squat on your message,” he said.
Companies that emphasize diversity and inclusiveness may also discourage white nationalists from claiming association, the researchers suggest.