Nike Pulls USA Flag-Themed Sneaker Amid Controversy About Its Symbolism

Nike has pulled an American flag-themed sneaker created to celebrate the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

The Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July was scheduled for release this week ahead of Independence Day. Printed at the heel of the shoe was an American flag with 13 white stars set in a circle — an early design of the United States flag commonly called the “Betsy Ross flag,” which was created during the American Revolution in the 1770s and represents the 13 original colonies.

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag,” a Nike spokesperson told FN.

According to a Wall Street Journal article published last night, former NFL star Colin Kaepernick — who memorably served as the face of the brand’s advertising campaign last year — was instrumental in Nike’s decision to take the shoes back from retailers.

The ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback reportedly reached out to officials at the Beaverton, Ore.-based company, informing them that the flag’s symbolism is offensive to some — including himself — considering its connection to an era of slavery.

The sneakers, which are no longer available on Nike.com and the Swoosh’s apps, have been listed on online resale sites including StockX. Originally priced at $120, the shoes are now retailing for as much as $2,500 on the sneaker marketplace.

Since pictures of the sneakers along with news of Nike’s decision to pull them hit the internet, social media has erupted with a mix of comments from both sides of the conversation.

Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts wrote, “If you’re going to tweet about the Betsy Ross Flag, make sure you include this part: ‘It has been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to America’s increasing diversity.'”

Adam Best, co-founder of sports network Fansided and chief of liberal podcast The Left, added, “The Betsy Ross flag has been turned into a symbol of white nationalism and domestic extremism. Conservatives will whine, but Colin Kaepernick was right to speak out and Nike was right to pull the products.”

On the other hand, former Florida congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted, “The Betsy Ross flag is now a symbol of White Nationalism and slavery? Not defiance against a distant monarchy?… PC madness is accelerating just in time for 2020. Trump feeds on your reflexive Wokeness. Great job, everybody.”

Meanwhile, Republican politician Herman Cain said, “Just so you know how this works now: Nothing can happen in America anymore if Colin Kaepernick doesn’t like it. And in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot Colin…”

Additionally, Gov. Doug Ducey announced on Twitter that he would be withdrawing financial incentives that his state of Arizona had promised Nike to open a manufacturing plant because of its decision to nix the release of the shoes featuring the flag.

“Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision,” he said in a series of tweets. “Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism.”

Since taking the knee during the national anthem prior to a game in the 2016 NFL preseason, Kaepernick launched a movement protesting the treatment of minorities in the U.S. The former NFL player’s anthem kneeling had proved polarizing with some in favor of his stance on social injustice and others claiming the act is disrespectful to the U.S. military.

Kaepernick returned to headlines in early September, when Nike unveiled an ad for the 30th anniversary of its iconic “Just Do It” campaign, featuring a close-up image of the athlete and the caption, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Watch FN’s interview with Nike trainer Joe Holder.

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