49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

July 23, 2007
Maybe shoe company not a soulless corporate giant

I don't think I'll be getting a Christmas card from Reebok this year. Like a lot of writers, I've been hammering the sneaker giant pretty hard over the whole Mike-Nolan-can't-wear-a-suit controversy. And for good reason. I mean, it's ludicrous that a grown man can't dress the way he wants, especially when it's such a dignified look he is after and when he has such a compelling argument for doing so.

But it's also important to give credit where credit is due. While researching the story I wrote in Sunday's paper on Alex Smith, I found out Reebok has been doing a lot behind the scenes. Smith is very interested in helping foster youths after they turn 18, the age at which they are cut off from state-sponsored care and basically left to fend for themselves. Most get a $400 check and are sent on their way. Can you imagine surviving, much less flourishing, at age 18 with a $400 nest egg? It's hard to imagine making it through a week.

Smith was inspired by a trip to San Pasqual Academy, a high school for foster children in the northeast tip of San Diego. On his first visit there in April 2005, Smith and Reebok arranged to supply new cleats to the team's eight-on-eight football team. Later, Reebok supplied the entire school - about 130 or so students - with new shoes. It involved getting everyone's foot size and shoe preference, and by all accounts, was a huge hit.

A cynic might say Reebok's largesse was calculated to curry favor with a potential endorser in Smith. Perhaps. The bottom line, however, is that it was a nice gesture directed toward a demographic that doesn't receive a lot of nice things. And it makes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, the big shoe company has a sole, er soul, after all.



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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