Nike sues novelty company MSCHF over Lil Nas X's 'Satan Shoes' collab

Victoria Hernandez
·4 min read
MSCHF's sneaker collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X remade the Nike Air Max with a satanic-inspired design and a drop of human blood in each shoe.
MSCHF's sneaker collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X remade the Nike Air Max 97 with a satanic-inspired design and a drop of human blood in each shoe. (MSCHF)

Nike is suing novelty brand MSCHF for its "Satan Shoes," a collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X. The sneakers, which are based on Nike's Air Max 97 model, caused an uproar when they were unveiled Friday.

The suit was filed in the Eastern District of New York and lists four complaints regarding the sneakers, which are black with red details, a pentagram charm on the laces and a reference to Bible verse Luke 10:18 describing Satan falling like lightning from heaven. Only 666 pairs were made available for sale.

Nike is alleging trademark infringement since its logos and branding are still clearly visible and recognizable even with the modifications done by MSCHF. It's also suing for false designation of origin and trademark dilution. It is asking for damages, legal fees and for the court to stop MSCHF from fulfilling orders of the sneakers, which sold out in minutes Monday morning despite the $1,018 price tag. It also asks the court to order MSCHF to cease all sales of Nike products.

"[The altering of the shoes] was done without Nike’s approval or authorization, and Nike is in no way connected with this project," the court filing reads.

Nike Air Max 97 compared to the "Satan Shoes" that MSCHF released in collaboration with Lil Nas X.
Nike Air Max 97 compared to the "Satan Shoes" that MSCHF released in collaboration with Lil Nas X. (Nike/MSCHF)

Furthermore, the sole of each sneaker contains a single drop of human blood mixed with ink, another cause for concern that is pointed out in the lawsuit.

"Making changes to the midsole may pose safety risks for consumers," Nike's attorneys stated.

The lawsuit directly addresses the commotion caused on social media when the shoes were announced Friday, stating "there is already evidence of significant confusion and dilution occurring in the marketplace, including calls to boycott Nike in response to the launch of MSCHF’s Satan Shoes based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorized or approved this product. ... 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."

The Twitter post Lil Nas X shared announcing the Satan Shoes to his nearly 6 million followers received more than 31,000 retweets and 6,000 comments. Several, including star college quarterback Trevor Lawrence and NBA guard Nick Young, questioned the need for such an outrageous statement. Young initially said he wasn't going to let his children listen to Lil Nas X's multi-platinum hit "Old Town Road," before backtracking, apologizing to Lil Nas X and saying his account was hacked.

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Amid the backlash, Nike initially released a statement saying that it had no involvement with the collaboration. MSCHF has previously released a pair of "Jesus Shoes," also based on the Air Max 97, with a white and blue colorway, a cross charm and a drop of holy water from the Jordan River.

"We do not have a relationship with Little Nas X or MSCHF," the statement read regarding the Satan Shoes. "Nike did not design or release these shoes, and we do not endorse them."

Lil Nas X, who is not listed as a defendant in the case, responded to the news of the lawsuit with a GIF, comparing himself to Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants living in a cardboard box shaking a cup for change.

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The shoes were released the same weekend as his song "Montero." The music video, which has 35 million views at the time of publication, shows the artist falling from paradise into hell, where he gives Satan a lap dance before snapping his neck and taking his crown. Lil Nas X shared a letter he wrote to his younger self about his coming out experience and, in light of the immense pushback from the shoes, shared a post about the pain he experienced hearing condemnation toward the gay community.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.