New Air Jordans cause shopping frenzy

Air Jordan XI Concord

December 23, 2011 6:05:27 PM PST
The release of Nike's retro Air Jordans caused a frenzy at stores across the nation early Friday, with hundreds of people lining up for a chance to buy the classic basketball shoes and rowdy crowds breaking down doors and starting fights in at least two cities.

On Staten Island, a shouting match escalated while people were waiting in line for the Air Jordan XI Concords. According to police, two young men were on the verge of going to blows when officers moved in. While they called the one man down, police say 19-year-old Vicenzo Gavrity began flailing his arms and violently resisting. Several officers subdued him. He was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstruction of a governmental administration.

And in Jersey City, a 20-year-old man was stabbed while waiting on line for the Nike Air Jordan XI Concord sneakers at the Newport Centre Mall.

The man was allegedly stabbed seven times while on line outside the Footlocker just after 10:15 p.m. last night. He was treated for a non life threatening injury.

The victim got into a verbal dispute with another man in line. A fight ensued, and the other man's friends joined in the attack. The suspects, men in their late teens, fled the scene.

No arrests were immediately made.

Other incidents were reported at sneaker stores across the country.

Police used pepper spray on about 20 people at a mall near Seattle, while officers arrested at least four unruly shoppers in suburban Atlanta.

People started gathering around midnight at four stores in the Westfield Southcenter mall in suburban Seattle for a chance to buy the shoes, which retail for $180 a pair, Tukwila Officer Mike Murphy said. The crowd grew to more than 1,000 people by 4 a.m., when the stores opened, he said.

"Around 3 (a.m.) there started to be some fighting and pushing among the customers," he said. "Around 4, it started to get pretty unruly and officers sprayed pepper spray on a few people who were fighting, and that seemed to do the trick to break them up."

No injuries were reported, although some people suffered cuts or scrapes from fights. One man was arrested for assault after authorities say he pushed an officer.

"He did not get his shoes; he went to jail," Murphy said.

In Lithonia, Ga., at least four people were arrested early Friday at a mall after a crowd of customers broke down a door at a store selling the Air Jordans before it opened.

DeKalb County police told Fox 5 Atlanta that up to 20 squad cars responded. Officers said they escorted most of the people outside but took four into custody.

Police also said they had to break a car window to get two toddlers out after a woman went in after the shoes. They said she was taken into custody when she returned to the car.

It's not the first time the Nikes have caused an uproar. Some people were mugged or even killed for early versions of the Air Jordan shoe, which Nike Inc. created in 1985.

The shoe has been a consistent hit since then with sneaker fans. A new edition was launched each year, and release dates had to be moved to the weekends at some points to keep kids from skipping school to get a pair.

No one anticipated the hysteria around the original Air Jordan, which spawned a subculture of collectors willing to wait hours to buy the latest pair. But the shopping frenzy over the shoe had died down in recent years.

These latest incidents instead seem to be part of trend of increasing acts of violence at retailers this holiday shopping season, such as the shopper who pepper-sprayed others at a Walmart in Los Angeles on Black Friday and crowds looting a clothing store in New York.

A representative for Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., was not immediately available to comment.

In Tukwila, Murphy said the crowd was on the verge of a riot and would have gotten even more out of hand if the police hadn't intervened.

"It was not a nice, orderly group of shoppers," Murphy said. "There were a lot of hostile and disorderly people."

About 25 officers from Tukwila, Renton, Kent, Seattle and King County responded. Murphy said they smelled marijuana and found alcohol containers at the scene.

The Southcenter mall's stores sold out of the Air Jordan 11 Retro Concords, and all but about 50 people got their Nikes, Murphy said.

Hundreds of customers also lined up outside shoe stores in downtown Seattle and at a mall in nearby Federal Way.

In Portland, Ore., a line started forming Thursday morning outside the downtown Nike store for customers waiting for Friday's re-release of the Nike shoe.

The Oregonian reported the Air Jordan appeal is only partly nostalgia for the former NBA star. Collectors known as "sneakerheads" save them for special occasions or never take them out of the box.

Some information from the Associated Press. AP Business Reporter Sarah Skidmore contributed to this report from Portland, Ore.

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