Puma commemorates ‘black power’ salute in US market push

Tommie Smith, centre, and John Carlos make their statement at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. (Getty Images)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Puma commemorates ‘black power’ salute in US market push

  • Puma’s #REFORM campaign will see brand ambassadors such as rapper Meek Mill call for people to post images of themselves online with a raised fist
  • Smith never competed again after 1968, received death threats and struggled to make a living for years

BERLIN: Puma is launching a campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of US sprinter Tommie Smith’s black-gloved salute at the 1968 Olympics, shortly after rival Nike scored a hit with an ad featuring a modern-day activist for racial equality.
Nike saw a jump in sales after its advertisement with American footballer Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the US national anthem at NFL games in 2016 to protest against police shootings of unarmed black men — a gesture that has drawn the ire of President Donald Trump.
Puma’s #REFORM campaign will see brand ambassadors such as rapper Meek Mill call for people to post images of themselves online with a raised fist to commemorate Smith’s silent salute at the Mexico Olympics on Oct. 16, 1968.
The brand is working with rap mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation on live and social media events to fight racism and sexism, and will match donations to charities such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), up to $100,000 in total.
Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden said it was a coincidence the anniversary comes soon after the Kaepernick ad, and also shortly after Puma launched its garish orange and black “Clyde Court Disrupt” basketball shoes — marking its return to a sport with close links to the social justice movement.
“We are not trying to make commercial advertising out of this but we think it is good for the brand because it is part of our values,” he told Reuters.
Puma has sponsored Smith for more than 50 years. He took a pair of their shoes onto the platform when he did his salute.
Puma is launching a collection of shoes called “Power Through Peace” on Oct. 16, with the proceeds going to charity.
Gulden said Smith was a trailblazer for other athletes like Kaepernick, who could not find a job for the 2017 season and is still without a team. Smith never competed again after 1968, received death threats and struggled to make a living for years.
“What he did then ... was the bravest thing an athlete has ever done when you think about the consequences,” Gulden said.
Nike sales jumped after the Kaepernick campaign, but its shares fell late last month when that did not feed through to an increase in the company’s full-year forecast.
Both Puma and German rival Adidas have been taking share from Nike in its home market in the last couple of years, helped by the popularity of their retro fashion styles.


At Jordan border, Damascus seeks to revive trade

Updated 21 October 2018
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At Jordan border, Damascus seeks to revive trade

  • The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July
  • By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region

BEIRUT: By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region as it looks to boost its war-ravaged economy.
The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July from rebels as part of a military offensive that reclaimed swathes of the south of the country.
Syria’s international trade has plummeted during the seven-year civil war, and its foreign reserves have been almost depleted.
The reopening of Nassib after a three-year hiatus, on Oct. 15, is a political victory for the Damascus regime, said Sam Heller of the International Crisis Group.
It is “a step toward reintegrating with Syria’s surroundings economically and recapturing the country’s traditional role as a conduit for regional trade,” he said.
The Nassib crossing reopens a direct land route between Syria and Jordan, but also a passage via its southern neighbor to Iraq to the east, and the Gulf to the south.
“For the Syrian government, reopening Nassib is a step toward normalization with Jordan and the broader region, and a blow to US-led attempts to isolate Damascus,” Heller said.
International pressure and numerous rounds of peace talks have failed to stem the fighting in Syria, and seven years in the regime has gained the military upper hand in the conflict.
Assad’s forces now control nearly two-thirds of the country, after a series of Russia-backed offensives against rebels.

 

Syria faces a mammoth task to revive its battered economy.
The country’s exports plummeted by more than 90 percent in the first four years of the conflict alone, from $7.9 billion to $631 million, according to a World Bank report last year.
The Syria Report, an economic weekly, said Nassib’s reopening would reconnect Syria with an “important market” in the Gulf.
But, it warned, “it is unlikely Syrian exports will recover anywhere close to the 2011 levels in the short and medium terms because the country’s production capacity has been largely destroyed.”
For now, at least, Nassib’s reopening is good news for Syrian tradesmen forced into costlier, lengthier maritime shipping since 2015.
Among them, Syrian businessman Farouk Joud was looking forward to being able to finally import goods from Jordan and the UAE via land.
Before 2015, “it would take a maximum of three days for us to receive goods, but via the sea it takes a whole month,” he told AFP.
Importing goods until recently has involved a circuitous maritime route from the Jordanian port of Aqaba via the Suez Canal, and up to a regime-held port in the northwest of the country.
“It costs twice as much as land transport via Nassib,” Joud said.
Syrian parliament member Hadi Sharaf was equally enthusiastic about fresh opportunities for Syrian exports.
“Exporting (fruit and) vegetables will have a positive economic impact, especially for much-demanded citrus fruit to Iraq,” he told AFP.
Before Syria’s war broke out in 2011, neighboring Iraq was the first destination of Syria’s non-oil exports.
The parliamentarian also hoped the revived trade route on Syria’s southern border would swell state coffers with much-needed dollars.
Before the conflict, the Nassib crossing raked in $2 million in customs fees, Sharaf said.
Last month, Syria’s Prime Minister Imad Khamis said fees at Nassib for a four-ton truck had been increased from $10 to $62.
Syria’s foreign reserves have been almost depleted due to the drop in oil exports, loss of tourism revenues and sanctions, the World Bank said.
And the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value since the start of the war.
Lebanese businessmen are also delighted, as they can now reach other countries in the region by sending lorries through Syria and its southern border crossing.
Lebanon’s farmers “used to export more than 70 percent of their produce to Arab countries via this strategic crossing,” said Bechara Al-Asmar, head of Lebanon’s labor union.
Despite recent victories, Damascus still controls only half of the 19 crossings along Syria’s lengthy borders with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
Damascus and Baghdad have said the Albukamal crossing with Iraq in eastern Syria will open soon, but did not give a specific date.
Beyond trade, there is even hope that the Nassib crossing reopening might bring some tourists back to Syria.
A Jordanian travel agency recently posted on Facebook that it was organizing daily trips to the Syrian capital by “safe and air-conditioned” bus from Monday.
“Who among us doesn’t miss the good old days in Syria?” it said.

FACTOID

BACKGROUND

Syria’s foreign reserves have been almost depleted owing to the drop in oil exports, loss of tourism revenues and sanctions, while the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value since the start of the war in 2011.