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.


War-ridden Yemen’s other frontline — the central bank

Updated 18 December 2018
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War-ridden Yemen’s other frontline — the central bank

  • The Arab world’s poorest country is crippled by a humanitarian crisis
  • Many have died as a result of poverty, starvation, poor health care as the central bank is caught up in the conflict

ADEN: Cashiers sort through large stacks of money inside a ragged building that is Yemen’s central bank, another frontline in a ruinous conflict as it fights to stave off economic collapse.
The Arab world’s poorest country is crippled by a humanitarian crisis, with images of skeletal children in famine-like conditions grabbing global attention, but economic dysfunction appears to be at the heart of the problem.
Yemen is afflicted by what diplomats call a famine of jobs and salaries, with the central bank — headquartered in the government’s de facto capital Aden.
Running the economy from a building pocked with bullet holes in the southern port city, the bank is scrambling to revive a currency that has lost two-thirds of its value since 2015, exacerbating joblessness and leaving millions unable to afford basic food staples.
The central bank expects a $3 billion cash injection from Gulf donors Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to prop up its sagging currency amid soaring inflation, its deputy chief Shokeib Hobeishy said in an interview last week, without giving a timeline.
The potential lifeline, if confirmed, would follow a $2.2 billion infusion by Saudi Arabia to the depleted reserves of a bank that appears ever more dependent on international handouts.


Hobeishy acknowledged that the bank was struggling to assert authority over its branches outside government control, including in Sanaa, which was seized by Iran-aligned Houthi militia in September 2014.
The government moved the bank’s headquarters from the capital in 2016 following suspicion that the Houthis were plundering its reserves to finance their war effort.
The relocation practically left the country with two parallel centers of fiscal policy dealing in one currency.
Yemen’s rivals reached a truce accord last week, but conspicuously absent was an agreement on economic cooperation as the Houthis rejected government calls for the Aden central bank to handle public sector salary payments on both sides, a diplomat who attended the talks told AFP.
The central bank is now “arguably the most dangerous frontline in the Yemen war,” said Wesam Qaid, executive director at Yemen’s Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service.
“The death toll as a result of bombings or land mines and military operations stands in the thousands,” Qaid told AFP.
“Many more have died as a result of poverty, starvation, poor health care as the central bank is caught up in the conflict.”


Yemen’s economy has contracted by 50 percent since the escalation of conflict in 2015 and inflation is projected at over 40 percent this year, according to the World Bank.
A weakened currency has diminished the purchasing power of millions and the private sector is haemorrhaging with businesses shutting down or making layoffs.
New Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, appointed in October, said he was seeking to revive oil exports that once contributed about three-quarters of state revenue.
But such are the fears of insolvency that many Yemenis are afraid of putting their money in local banks.
“Banks often say: ‘We don’t have money. Come tomorrow, come next week’,” said a 54-year-old school employee in Aden.
Businesses also criticize the central bank over cumbersome processes to obtain letters of credit for vital imports — in a country that depends almost entirely on food from abroad.
In a letter sent in November to the prime minister and central bank chief, Aden’s chamber of commerce voiced concern that traders in areas outside government control were struggling to import essential goods. A central bank order requires payment in cash only.
The letter, seen by AFP, said the policy had caused a sharp decline in imports in those densely populated areas, making them prone to famine.
On the other side, businesses say the rebels are obstructing traders and banks in their areas from opening credit lines to Aden.
Central bank chief Mohammed Zemam said this month five Sanaa-based central bank employees had fled to Aden over safety fears and were immediately blacklisted by the Houthis.
“We are asking the Houthis to leave the banking sector alone,” he said in a separate interview in Riyadh.
“This is the only way to feed the people.”