SEATTLE -- The release of Nike's new Air Jordan basketball shoes caused a frenzy at stores across the nation Friday as scuffles broke out and police were brought in to stamp out unrest that nearly turned into riots in some places.
Shoppers stood in long lines through the night to get their hands on a retro version of one of the most popular models of Air Jordans ever made. The fights were reminiscent of violence that broke out in the early 1990s on streets across America as the shoes became popular targets for thieves.
In suburban Seattle, police used pepper spray on 20 customers who started fighting at the Westfield Southcenter mall.
The crowd started gathering at four stores in the mall around midnight and had grown to more than 1,000 people by 4 a.m., when the stores opened, said Tukwila Officer Mike Murphy.
"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."
Murphy said no injuries were reported, although some people suffered cuts or scrapes from fights. An 18-year-old man was arrested for assault after authorities say he punched an officer.
"He did not get his shoes; he went to jail," Murphy said.
The frenzy over Air Jordans -- the new pair retails for about $180 -- has been dangerous in the past. Some people were mugged or even killed for early versions of the shoe, created by Nike Inc. in 1985.