JAY MCFARLAND

Should Nike recall its Betsy Ross flag sneaker?

Jul 2, 2019, 5:11 PM
Nike is canceling a sneaker that featured a version of the American flag from the late 18th century...
Nike is canceling a sneaker that featured a version of the American flag from the late 18th century. Photo: Nike

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

Nike pulled a sneaker from stores featuring the famous 1776 Betsy Ross flag meant to celebrate the Fourth of July. The red, white and blue shoe includes Ross’s 13-star design in a circle — representing the original 13 U.S. colonies — woven into the heel.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is a Nike endorser, contacted the company to complain that the Revolutionary War-era flag represented a period when slavery was legal and common in the United States. Kaepernick asked Nike to reconsider the design of the shoe in light of the message it sends about race in the U.S. today.

kaepernick nike

A billboard featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is displayed on the roof of the Nike Store on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The  Nike Air Max 1 USA, the sneaker’s actual name, has a retail value of $120 but is selling for more than $2,000 on resale site StockX after they were pulled from retail shelves.

Kaepernick is known for his political activism and kneeling instead of standing during the playing of the National Anthem starting in 2016 to protest police brutality and systematic racism against African-Americans. President Donald Trump said that NFL owners should “fire” players who protest the National Anthem.

Kaepernick became the face of Nike’s ads in 2018 marking the 30th anniversary of the company’s “Just Do It” slogan.

White supremacist groups have flown the Betsy Ross flag and used it in their propaganda, including the Ku Klux Klan and other far-right militia groups, either as a replacement for or alongside the Confederate flag, according to distractify.com.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he’s pulling financial incentives offered to the shoemaker to build a $185 million plant in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear and bring 500 full-time jobs to the state.

“Nike made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday,” the company said in a statement.

Nike did not say whether Kaepernick was a reason for pulling the new sneakers from stores.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said that he would never buy a Nike product again after the company’s decision not to release the Betsy Ross sneaker.

The Betsy Ross flag is not included in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of over 150 hate symbols, including the Confederate flag, said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at ADL’s Center on Extremism.

“We view it as essentially an innocuous historical flag,” Pitcavage said. “It’s not a thing in the white supremacist movement.”

But in 2016, a Michigan chapter of the NAACP said the Betsy Ross flag was being appropriated by white supremacist groups, leading a school superintendent to apologize for the flag flying at a high school football game.

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Should Nike recall its Betsy Ross flag sneaker?