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Nike Ad Celebrating Arab Athletes Inspirational Or Controversial?

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Women in the Nike ad are causing quite a stir, while making a bold statement about females in sports in the Arab world!

The online commercial by Nike released this week was entirely shot in the rundown suburb of Dubai. Featuring Arab athletes excelling in sports like fencing, boxing, ice-skating, the ad is in Arabic with subtitles available in English, and comes out at a time when women from this region are fiercely competing in sports and trying hard to break stereotypes.

Based on the common phrase, “What will they say about you,” it kick-starts with an athlete nervously stepping out of the door, settling her hijab and then running on the road, while a woman staring down at her. The ad slowly reveals the theme of how young women are readily pursuing their dreams, despite of rigid traditions and gender-biased roles that scrutinises the woman in the society. They’re “the first”, “the best”, “the only”, and this is what Nike campaign believes in:

“if you have a body – you are an athlete and with this film we hope to inspire you, the women, and girls of the region to pursue that passion for sport or to try it for the first time #justdoit”
– Nike Middle East

Nike told CNN that they wanted the video – narrated by Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi – to be “local and genuine.” Hind Rasheed, Nike’s communication manager in Dubai said, “The film aims to highlight the stories of amazing athletes to encourage and inspire others.”

“An ad (which) touches on the insecurities of women in a society digs deeper and becomes an empowerment tool rather than just a product,” Sara al-Zawqari, a spokeswoman for the International Red Cross in Iraq, wrote on her Twitter page.

The Nike ad celebrating Arab athletes has been viewed over 3 million times in just 48 hours on social media; however it has received flak from conservatives over the message they are spreading.
“I think this ad was an utter fail,” said Nada Sahimi on the company’s Instagram page. “This is not the true representation of Arab, Muslim women. We do not wear a hijab and go running in the streets, shame on Nike,” she further added.

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