Beliefnet

The low moment of the Olympics was the Nike commercial with a crazed killer chasing a woman with a chainsaw. It's evidence that some companies are only too willing to exploit our appetite for the abhorrent.

The ad was shocking by any standard. A masked man with a chainsaw is chasing a woman through the woods. The woman gets away--because she's wearing Nike trainers. As the killer watches his victim flee, the narrator says: "Why sport? Because you'll live longer."

The moral fabric of a civilization can be seen in how it treats its most vulnerable members.


NBC aired the ad during prime time, and soon heard from thousands of outraged viewers. Parents said the ad gave their kids nightmares, and made light of real-life threats to women.

The Kansas City Star suggested the ad was saying, "[Are you a] victim of domestic violence? Strap on some running shoes and sprint to the nearest shelter with a child under each arm. Faced with a rapist in a ...parking lot? Ready, set, go, girl!"

NBC quickly pulled the ad. But Nike executives said they can't figure out what the big deal is over a commercial they considered "edgy." Their spokesman sniffed, "I don't think [customers] expect us to create ads with puppy dogs...and cheery music. That's just not who we are."

Who they are, it seems, is a company willing to offend women and frighten children--a company hinting that the horrific is humorous. Frankly, that attitude is rotten. But what a contrast it is to the approach taken by another business leader.

Wick Allison is publisher of a Dallas magazine called D. A few weeks ago, Allison flipped through an advance copy of his September issue and was shocked to see two ads he considered obscene. He wouldn't describe the ads, but observers noted that several other magazines were currently running ads linking sex and violence.

Copies of D were already on their way to the newsstands, but Allison didn't hesitate. He ordered the trucks to make a detour--straight to the local recycling center. The entire September issue--all 70,000 copies--was turned into pulp.

It was a costly decision, as the Wall Street Journal reported, but it made Wick Allison a hero. Women he works with sent him thank-you notes. People stopped him on the street to thank him.

The moral fabric of a civilization can be seen in how it treats its most vulnerable members. When ads make light of violence against women, and when magazines like Vogue, GQ, and Elle are running ads I can't even describe on BreakPoint, we know the barbarians are in our midst.

Three cheers for people like Wick Allison who put trash where it belongs. But we also need to demand a little more respect from his less-civilized colleagues. I don't know about you, but I don't plan on buying any Nike products. They ought to clean up their ads without being shamed into doing so.

To quote their own slogan--they need to "Just do it!"

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