“It’s ‘Prince George’s County,’ not ‘P.G,’ ” said Howard Stone, a longtime county bureaucrat who has worked in almost every major local government office. “We should never allow anyone to say it in our presence.”
Nike on Wednesday released Durant’s “KD8 PG County” model basketball shoe, a colorful, $180 tribute to the Seat Pleasant native’s home jurisdiction. But not everyone in Prince George’s is keen on the abbreviation that makes up part of the name of the footwear — a nickname they say is more of a dig than a term of endearment.
“As you can imagine, we are very proud of the success of Prince George’s County native Kevin Durant, and the pride that he has in growing up in the county,” the office of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said in an e-mail sent to Nike. “We do want to make the Nike corporation aware that ‘P.G.’ is a term that many in Prince George’s County consider pejorative and/or an insult.”
Nike did not respond to a request for comment.
For decades, leaders of the country’s most affluent majority African American jurisdiction have campaigned against shortening the county’s full name to two letters — which insiders say could just as easily stand for “Pretty Ghetto” or “Pretty Grim.”
Stone called the nickname “denigrating,” evoking images of the county as crime-ridden and poor.
Kevin Durant unveils Nike KD8 PG County sneakers and PG County officials offended that Nike did not spell out Prince George's County? SMH— DocJoRich (@docjorich) November 25, 2015
The county was hard-hit by the recession and still lags behind its more affluent suburban neighbors in most economic and educational indicators. At the same time, it has seen a boom in development and private investment, and continues to boast some of the highest median incomes, education levels and home values among the nation’s majority-minority communities.
“We’ve had our challenges,” Stone said. “But Prince George’s is on the move.”
Not everyone is upset. State Del. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s) said the county should be proud of the 2014 NBA MVP not just because he pays homage to Prince George’s but because he gives back to the community. At the same time, Washington did say he wishes the fancy basketball shoes were priced more affordably.
County Council member Derrick L. Davis (D-Mitchellville) said Durant “shouldn’t be burdened to carry the added responsibility of formality as it pertains to the perceived pejorative.”
“While I understand others’ dismay, the fact that he thought enough of ‘home’ to use it, albeit colloquially, makes me, a proud Prince Georgian, proud to claim Kevin as a Prince Georgian.”
Even Baker admitted in a phone interview that he understands that Durant —who many local professional basketball fans hope joins the hometown Wizards next year as a free agent— is “going to call the shoe what he wants.” That’s fine, Baker added, so long as government officials, reporters and others who refer to the county in an official capacity use the more formal “Prince George’s.”
“We are most happy that he thinks about Prince George’s, and wants the world to know this was the community that raised him,” Baker said.
Baker said he would like to own a pair of the shoes, which on Wednesday were available in the county at Foot Locker stores and their affiliates (employees at a Clinton-area Foot Locker, which had the shoe only in child and pre-school sizes, said they had sold about five pairs by late afternoon).
In a text, fellow Democrat Justin Ross, a lifelong county resident and former state delegate who now works as a lobbyist, said he was headed out soon to purchase a pair for himself. “Clearly Kevin Durant named his new shoe out of love and respect for our hometown,” Ross’s text said. “Good looking out KD, I’m buying some PG’s and wearing them all over the DMV.”