The Nike Swoosh Flies Again: N7 Program Is Giving Native Golfers a Lift


The winged Nike is once again swooshing over Indian country in the form of new Nike N7 shoes, the latest version of the shoe designed specifically for American Indians as a way of promoting physical fitness.

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The Air Native N7 for rezball/roundball athletes was designed with a larger fit for Indigenous feet, as well as a culturally-specific look. This is the first time Nike has designed a shoe for a specific race or ethnicity — this one’s wider at the toe, with a thicker sock liner for comfort and fewer seams to cut down on irritation.

Since its introduction in 2007, the shoe has been distributed solely to Natives via tribal schools and wellness programs nationwide, with shoe sale profits reinvested in tribal health programs. “We’re aware of health concerns facing Native Americans and are stepping up our commitment to elevate those health and wellness issues,” said Sam McCracken, manager of Nike’s Native American Business Program.

The Nike N7 Golf Shoe is aimed at those Natives who tee it up and aim for the green. It will be officially launched on July 2nd. Pre-launch versions were distributed at the recent NABI Foundation golf tournament, an increasingly-popular annual golf classic at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Arizona.

“Our tournament was awesome this year,” said NABI founder GinaMarie Scarpa. “After being greeted on arrival by some familiar faces from the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the golfers all received goodie bags with Nike shoes, hats, shirts, and gloves.”

Suns Vice President Ralph Marchetta, who acted as Master of Ceremonies for the tournament, was still wearing a pair of the new Nikes when he was interviewed for this story. “I love them,” he said. “The most comfortable golf shoe I’ve ever had. Everyone I talked to at the NABI tournament was blown away by how great the shoes are, how light they felt. The look of the shoe and the color combinations were awesome.”

Angelo Johnson is the Events Coordinator at NABI who handles all the tournament details, was also impressed by the feedback about the new shoe. “Everybody liked the design and the color waves were different than what we’ve seen on regular shoes, a unique look of mainly black with turquoise and red. It looked kind of like a basketball shoe — but with different design and different colors.”

Courtesy N7/Indian Canyons

The pro shop at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort in Palm Springs, California is part of the the Nike N7 Golf Initiative, which provides tribally owned shops exclusives on N7 golf merchandise.

Sara Andart was the regional Nike representative who got to play Santa’s elf at the NABI tournament handing out the shoes, shirts, and other goodies. “First and foremost, people were shocked they were getting a pair of shoes that were not even available on the open market. Many immediately took off their old golf shoes and put on the new Nikes before they headed for the course.

“In addition to the product, we were on hand to help make members of the tribal communities who were present understand what the N7 effort is all about. To connect the dots with folks is meaningful. We live with diversity and it’s always great to understand where each of us is coming from and N7 is a good segue to get to know each other better. I left the NABI tournament feeling proud of what I do for a living and the amount of thanks we received was overwhelming—and touching.”

Nike executive McCracken, a Fort Peck Sioux tribal member who initiated the N7 concept in 2000, had a vision to sell Nike products directly to Native America in support of health promotion and disease prevention, a move that led to introduction of the Nike Air Native N7.

N7 was inspired by Native American wisdom surrounding the Seven Generations — the impact of decisions runs for seven generations. According to N7 Fund materials, “Everybody leaves a footprint, they are inevitable. Our responsibility lies in how it affects future generations. The goal of N7 is to consider this footprint and help Native American and Aboriginal youth build on a proud history for a triumphant future.” All proceeds from the sale of product through Native community centers and tribes is given back to youth sports and similar programs in Native communities throughout North America.”

And according to Nike: “We put our resources to work for the programs we believe in. Since 2009, Nike’s N7 program has provided more than $2 million worth of support to Native American and aboriginal youth sports programs.”

“Few things have the power to bring people together like sport,” McCracken says, “and the N7 brand, with its specific palette, is resonating with Native Communities. We have a unique following of consumers who look online to get the latest and greatest N7 stuff and now that word is starting to get out that it will show up soon on social media, curiosity and inquiries are starting to pick up with people asking where they can get the new shoe. It’s exciting for me to say that the only place you can buy this product is at tribally-owned golf courses across the United States [currently 67 tribal communities].”

The company has been working on a golf shoe with guidance by Notah Begay and testing sample product in California, Arizona, New York, and New Mexico for a couple of years. “The model we unveiled in a slow rollout earlier this year is the first version of an N7 golf shoe. We officially unveil the latest innovation on July 2nd,” says Nike Sales Manager Rick Gielow.

Participants at the 3rd Annual NABI Golf Classic lining up for N7 apparel.

In addition to the comfort factors, the vibrant colors and the warrior designs make the shoe pop with its graphic arrow designs that point both forward and backward, significant of the impact of both the past and the future that will affect the next seven generations.

“In our tests, it’s been a great connector to reach a specific demographic athlete,” adds Nike’s Andy Lowrey, who was involved in the development process. “We’ll align our golf category with the N7 brand in general. It will be a nice niche that we haven’t offered in the past.”

As the barrier-breaking first Native American PGA star, Notah Begay agrees: “In the early 2000s, Nike sent an entire team of shoe experts to visit reservations and take foot measurements from people in those communities. Nike has really put their best foot forward across the board from Day One and I’m thankful they chose to do this.”

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