A Brief History of Banned Sneakers in Sports


Yesterday tennis basically decided Roger Federer was way too badass for them — or at least his sneakers were. After a few previews of the “Wimbledon” edition Nike Vapor 9 Tour (and after it quickly sold out on Nike dot com), sneakerheads were shocked that the predominantly white shoe with orange soles was banned from the tournament. Roger had to change the kicks up and lost in his first match after making the switch. Of course this isn’t the first time “the man” has deemed a shoe too much for the game. We decided to give you a history lesson on other kicks that have been outlawed.

A Complete History of Banned Sneakers in Sports:


Nike Air Jordan 1

Year: 1985

When Nike first presented MJ with sketches of the black and red Jordan 1s, he innocently responded “I can’t wear that shoe, those are the Devil colors.” As a Tar Heel, MJ wasn’t so eager to don the colors of rival NC State, and the NBA wasn’t feeling the white-free color scheme either, fining him $5,000 a game for breaking league uniform rules. Legend has it that Nike gladly picked up the tab, made a timely commercial, and the “ban” made the $65 shoe more popular than they ever imagined.



Nike Air Foamposite One

Year: 1997

David Stern wasn’t messing around with league uniform rules—when Penny went to debut the Air Foamposite One, he was advised to give the upper a little more black or he would be fined. Hardaway made his own PE sneaker with the help of a Sharpie, drawing in black lines down the grooves so he could rock his Foams without losing his paycheck. Bibby got away with his just fine in the ’97 NCAA title game, another reason college hoops reigns supreme.


Spira Footwear

Year: 2006

International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) Rule No. 143 states that shoes “must not be constructed so as to give an athlete an unfair additional assistance, including by the incorporation of any technology which will give the wearer any unfair advantage.” The shoe has blurred the line of acceptable for many years—frankly, we don’t get what the big deal is.



Nike Air Max Diamond Elite

Year: 2010

Even baseball players are subject to the “too much color” rule, Brian Wilson got fined a rack for his cleats being too orange. Brian Wilson explained the fine best, “It was a $1,000 fine for my cleats being too awesome,” he said. “It will go to charity so it’s money well-spent.” Just another day in the shenanigans that are Brian Wilson, king. Good thing he never tried to pitch in his Air Mags.


Athletic Propulsion Labs

Year: 2010

APLs were officially banned from the NBA right before the 2010-2011 season, claiming the spring-loaded shoe would give players an unfair advantage with an increased vertical. This idea sounded awesome—who wouldn’t want the whole game looking like the dudes dunking off trampolines during timeouts. It also provided a tremendous marketing angle for the young company.



Nike Zoom Vapor Carbon Fly TD

Year: 2011

In 2011 both Earl Bennett and Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears drew some heavy fines for refusing to dump their orange PE cleats. QB Jay Cutler actually offered to pay the tax from the league but they wouldn’t allow it. When did a man’s game start scrutinizing a player’s wardrobe? In the words of the great Mike Ditka, stop it.



Jordan BCT Speed

Year: 2011

The NFL wasn’t playing in 2011, fining four separate players for breaking league uniform rules. Michael Crabtree’s gold Jordans were one of the cleats to draw headlines. When is Jordan Brand going to finally start releasing some of these exclusives in the wild?



Nike Vapor Talon Elite

Year: 2011

Marshawn Lynch loves Skittles. How much? $10,000 worth, apparently. The NFL fined the running back $10k after the final game of the 2010-2011 season for his custom Nike cleats featuring Skittles on the side. Skittles on your cleats, B? He deserved it.





Nike Zoom Vapor 9 Tour LE “Wimbledon”

Year: 2013

In case you missed it, Federer was kindly told by tennis officials to ditch the white/white/white/white/a little orange Vapor 9 Tours made for Wimbledon. You would think this dude was balling recklessly the way they shut down the orange-accented soles that were barely visible on the court. Federer lost his first game without the LE “Wimbledon” kicks—had to be the shoes. Someone explain how Agassi got away with his kicks throughout the ’90s—had to be the hair.

* via Complex Sneakers



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