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Nike Pulls Billboard Using Player’s Godlike Nickname

November 14, 1995

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Fans may have called him ``Allah,″ but Nike won’t.

The sports shoemaker said Monday it would take down a billboard featuring the local nickname for John Williams, one of the city’s hottest high school basketball prospects a decade ago.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations had asked the company to remove the ad, saying it offended Muslims because ``Allah″ is the Arabic word for ``God.″

Williams graduated from Crenshaw High School and ended up at Louisiana State University after a nationwide recruiting drive. He later played pro ball for several years.

The billboard near the University of Southern California featured Williams’ picture with the headline ``and they called him Allah.″

The ad was part of a campaign focusing on ``everyday athletes,″ said Nike spokesman Erin Patton.

``We deeply regret any offense that has been taken by the Muslim community. Our attempt here was to portray our athletes in their true essence,″ he said. The nickname was actually coined by fans themselves, who chanted ``Allah″ when Williams played, Patton said.

Nihad Awad, the Muslim group’s executive director, praised Nike officials’ response, saying, ``They acted quickly to resolve the problem.″

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