Nike cancels Puerto Rico-homage sneaker with Panama design

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Guna indigenous women pose for a photo wearing traditional dresses decorated with Molas, after a press conference where Guna leaders demanded that the sports shoe company Nike remove their traditional Mola handcraft print from a shoe design, in Panama City, Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Nike said in a statement that it has canceled the launch of the "Nike Air Force 1 ‘Puerto Rico" trainer, with which it intended to pay homage to Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Nike said Tuesday it won't release a version of its Air Force 1 shoe meant to celebrate Puerto Rico, after an indigenous group in Panama objected to one of its traditional designs being used on the sneaker.

The company said in a statement: "We apologize for the inaccurate representation of the design origin for the Nike Air Force 1 'Puerto Rico' 2019. As a result, this product will no longer be available." The shoe was to have been released in June.

The Guna people, one of seven indigenous groups in Panama, live mainly on the Caribbean coast and have traditionally used the swirling, multicolored "Mola" design. The Gunas said in a statement that the company had not asked permission to use the design. Panamanian law recognizes indigenous groups' rights to their intellectual property.

"We are not against our 'mola' being commercialized. What we oppose is it being done without consulting us first," said Belisario López, the traditional leader of the Guna Yala community.

López said the design represents "Mother Earth, because the design is based on everything that is nature."

But, he noted the design "is a dress (style) exclusively for women."