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No, singer-songwriter Prince didn’t build Nike’s brand

A meme circulating online since 2016 claims the late musician Prince not only invested in shoe and clothing company Nike back in 1971 but also recruited basketball star Michael Jordan to the brand in 1983 and designed the first edition of the iconic Nike Air Jordan sneaker.

Prince died in 2016. The meme concludes: “RIP to a legend that created a legend!”

Since then, the meme has been repeatedly shared on Twitter and Facebook, where one post of it has been shared nearly 40,000 times.

A user flagged the post using Facebook’s fact-checking system, sending a request for Africa Check to check it.

Prince turned 13 in 1971

The meme has been debunked multiple times by different publications, including fact-checking websites Snopes and Politifact. Even digital media website Vice investigated it as one of many Prince-related popular culture myths.

Snopes says the timeline suggested in the meme makes its claims impossible. Prince was born in June 1958 and would have been 12 or 13 years old in 1971, the year Nike made its first shoe.

It’s highly unlikely that Prince, who released his first album in 1977, would have had enough money to invest in the company at such a young age.

More than this, Nike only started trading publicly in 1980 – so Prince couldn’t have bought shares in 1971.

No mention of Prince in history of Nike-Jordan partnership

As to whether Prince helped recruit Jordan to Nike in 1983, Politifact could not find any media reports saying the musician was involved in the sport star’s Nike deal. In any case, Jordan first signed with Nike in 1984, the year he played his first professional basketball game.

In 2013 sport and entertainment network ESPN published a detailed history of the Nike-Jordan partnership. There’s no mention of Prince. The question of who influenced the deal has been so tangled that even Jordan’s agent in the eighties, David Falk, had to set the record straight more than 30 years later.  

The meme also claims Prince designed the first Air Jordan, released in 1985. But this is also not true according to a number of sneaker specialist websites such as Sneakerfiles, Complex and Footlocker. - Naphtali Khumalo (20/05/19)

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