Just in time for the Fourth of July comes a report that Nike yanked a sneaker embellished with a Betsy Ross flag after NFL footballer-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick complained the image conjured up slavery and all its ills.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which attributes its story to “people familiar with the matter,” Nike’s Air Max 1 USA, featuring the 1770s-era Betsy Ross flag of the U.S. on its heel, was set to go on sale this week in honor of Independence Day when Kaepernick, a Nike endorser:
reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery, the people said. Some users on social media responded to posts about the shoe with similar concerns.
In response, Nike asked stores that had already gotten the sneakers to return them, and the sneakers were not available on Nike’s apps or websites, the Journal reports.
However, according to the news site, some of the sneakers had made it to sneaker-resale site StockX, where they were selling for as much as $500.
The Journal reports Kaepernick “declined to comment,” but a Nike spokeswoman told the news organization: “Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag.”
Regarding the controversy, the Journal explains this is not the first time the Betsy Ross flag, which has just 13 stars, representing the original 13 Colonies, has created a stir:
In 2016, the superintendent of a Michigan school district apologized after students waved the Betsy Ross flag at a high school football game, saying that for some it is a symbol of white supremacy and nationalism, according to Mlive.com, a local news outlet. While the flag’s use isn’t widespread, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said at the time that it has been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to America’s increasing diversity.
And, of course, it’s not Kaepernick’s first time as the source of controversy. Since being blackballed by the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality and racial injustice, Kaepernick became a target anew when Nike chose him as the face of one of its campaigns last fall.
Nike’s move had some deciding to burn their Nike shoes, while others cheered the decision, increasing sales for the company.