On Wednesday, a U.S. District Court in New York approved Nike’s request for a temporary restraining order against MSCHF, the art collective that collaborated with the rapper to create a pair of sneakers containing “one drop” of human blood. They used modified Nike Air Max 97s for the collaboration.
“Nike filed a trademark infringement and dilution complaint against MSCHF today related to the Satan Shoes,” Nike told CBS News in a statement Thursday. “We don’t have any further details to share on pending legal matters. However, we can tell you we do not have a relationship with Lil Nas X or MSCHF. The Satan Shoes were produced without Nike’s approval or authorization, and Nike is in no way connected with this project.”
The court order states that the Brooklyn-based agency cannot fulfill any orders. During a court hearing Thursday morning, MSCHF’s lawyer said that the majority of the shoes, over 600 pairs, have already been shipped to individual consumers, arguing that this rendered Nike’s claims irrelevant.
Nike’s lawyer said he had “some serious doubts” that MSCHF was able to ship and deliver all 665 pairs of the shoes in the last few days. Even if they had, the lawyer argued, that would not eliminate the “irreparable harm” caused by the shoes.
He argued that shipping the shoes does not remove the “post-sale confusion and delusion” experienced by Nike customers. Nike said that MSCHF’s marketing and social media materials prominently featured the Nike “swoosh” mark, with no public disclaimers or disassociations with Nike.
Nike said some customers are now boycotting the brand online for its apparent association with Satan. The company wants MSCHF to stop all orders currently in transit and recover them.
On Monday, 665 pairs of the devil-themed sneakers, priced at $1,018, sold out in just one minute. Fans were able to enter a giveaway to win the final, 666th pair of shoes, but lawyers said the raffle is currently on hold.
During the court hearing, MSCHF stated that the shoes are art — a criticism of collaboration culture and a critique of how “Nike will collaborate with anyone.” Lawyers referenced the companion artwork, the “,” which made “just as big of a societal impact,” but did not face a lawsuit.
MSCHF made a similar argument in a statement to CBS News. “Heresy only exists in relation to doctrine,” the company said. “Who is Nike to censor one but not the other?”
MSCHF’s lawyer also alleged that purchasers of the shoes are sophisticated sneakerheads, who would not believe the shoes were affiliated with Nike, and who do not plan to wear the shoes in public, but rather display them as art. Nike disputed this claim, pointing to an image of Miley Cyrus wearing the sneakers in an Instagram post to her 127 million followers.
The lawsuit is ongoing, and MSCHF said it would not sell any more pairs of the Satan shoes, adding, “there are no more shoes.”
The controversial sneakers, denounced by countless conservative politicians and religious leaders, feature a bronze pentagram, the number “666” and a small amount of human blood obtained from the MSCHF team.
The price is a reference to the Bible passage Luke 10:18, which reads, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” the collective told CBS News. The release coincided with Lil Nas X’s new song and music video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” in which the 21-year-old attempts to seduce a horned devil in an homage to hisof his queer identity.
Earlier this week, Nike told CBS News that it had no part in designing or releasing the shoes with the Grammy Award-winning artist or the art collective.
“We do not endorse them,” the company said Monday.
Later that day, Nikeagainst MSCHF, arguing the swoosh violates its trademark and damages its brand.
The sneaker giant argued the shoes are “likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike,” alleging that there’s “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.”
“As a direct and proximate result of MSCHF’s wrongful acts, Nike has suffered, continues to suffer, and/or is likely to suffer damage to its trademarks, business reputation, and goodwill that money cannot compensate,” the lawsuit added. “Unless enjoined, MSCHF will continue to use Nike’s Asserted Marks and/or confusingly similar marks and will cause irreparable damage to Nike for which Nike has no adequate remedy at law.”
The rapper, born Montero Lamar Hill, did not shy away from online disapproval, even joking about going to court with Nike.
However, he also tweeted Monday that the “backlash” is taking an “emotional toll.”
“I try to cover it with humor but it’s getting hard,” he said. “My anxiety is higher than ever.” Lil Nas X is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
In its statement Thursday, MSCHF told CBS News that it “strongly believes in the freedom of expression,” adding that “nothing is more important than our ability, and the ability of other artists like us, to continue with our work over the coming years.”
“We look forward to working with Nike and the court to resolve this case in the most expeditious manner,” the company said.