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When it comes to Prince, it isn’t hard to believe extraordinary stories about his endeavors, business-related and otherwise. But investing in Nike and designing the Air Jordan sneaker were not among his pursuits.
Shortly after the prolific musician died on April 21, 2016, rumors began to spread that Prince invested in Nike, recruited Michael Jordan to the company and designed the first Air Jordan sneaker. The only problem is, none of it is true.
Social media posts, like this one recently shared on Facebook, include side-by-side images of Jordan and Prince and claim that: "Back in 1971 Prince invested in the Nike Shoe Company. Later in 1983, he recruited Michael Jordan, designed Jordan’s 1st iconic show, and set up Nike’s Jordan 1 sales campaign. Prince set Michael up to become a billion dollar shoe mogul and few even know it."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
First, it is improbable that Prince invested in Nike in 1971 – because he would have been only between 12 and 13 years old then. Prince didn’t achieve major commercial success until after his debut album "For You" was released in 1978.
Next up is the claim that Prince recruited Michael Jordan to sign with Nike in 1983. Now, Jordan did join the company in 1984, but there is no evidence Prince had anything to do with it.
We couldn’t find any media reports that suggest he was involved in Jordan’s Nike deal, a detail that would have been big news given Prince’s stardom in the mid-80s. The narrative also contradicts other accounts, which include Jordan’s agent at the time, of how the deal went down. Prince’s name does not come up.
Joseph Vogel, author of the 2018 Prince biography "This Thing Called Life: Prince, Race, Sex, Religion, and Music," told us the claim is an odd myth.
"Prince would have been around 13 years old in 1971 so the idea that he would have invested in Nike that year makes little sense and is not supported by any credible source that I'm aware of," Vogel wrote in an email to PolitiFact. "Same goes for him recruiting Michael Jordan in 1983. The history of Nike and the Air Jordans has been thoroughly documented and does not include Prince. As far as I know, Prince and Michael Jordan did not have any kind of relationship, though Jordan was a fan of his music."
Shortly after Prince’s untimely death, Jordan did release a statement calling the musician a genius and said his songs inspired him throughout his career.
"Like so many people I am shocked at the news that Prince has died," Jordan said. "In a world of creative performers, Prince was a genius. His impact not just on music, but on culture, truly can’t be measured. His songs inspired me throughout my career and remind me of so many moments from my life."
But that comment does not mean Prince had anything to do with Jordan’s success with Nike.
This claim is full-on Pants on Fire!
Facebook post, March 6, 2019
Vice, No, Prince Didn't Invent Air Jordans, and Other Myths Debunked, April 30, 2016
The Famous People, Prince profile, Accessed March 14, 2019
Rolling Stone, Michael Jordan: ‘Prince Was a Genius’, April 22, 2016
ESPN, How Nike landed Michael Jordan, Feb. 15, 2013
ABC News, Michael Jordan's agent tries to set record straight on original Nike deal, May 4, 2016
Footlocker, History of the Air Jordan, Accessed March 14, 2019
Sneaker Files, Air Jordan 1, Accessed March 14, 2019
Joe Vogel.net, Prince, Accessed March 15, 2019
Email interview, Joseph Vogel professor and Prince biographer, March 15, 2019
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