Nike canceled a sneaker featuring an early United States flag design known as the “Betsy Ross flag” after former NFL player Colin Kaepernick said the design was offensive because it was associated with an era of slavery, The Wall Street Journal reports. The flag has also been appropriated by extremist groups as a symbol of white supremacy, per the report.
“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,” Nike said in a statement to the Journal.
The $140 shoes were set to go on sale this week. The shoes had already been shipped to retailers when Nike decided to recall the shoes, according to the report.
Some of the shoes had already made it out into the public and pairs are selling online for upwards of $2,000, according to the report.
After the report, Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said that the state would no longer provide subsidies that it had promised to Nike to open a new manufacturing plant near Phoenix.
“Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision,” Ducey tweeted. “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.”
Some Twitter users disagreed. Adam Best, the host of The Left podcast, wrote that Kaepernick and Nike made the right call.
“The Betsy Ross flag has been turned into a symbol of white nationalism and domestic extremism,” he wrote. “Conservatives will whine, but Colin Kaepernick was right to speak out and Nike was right to pull the products.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Nike Recalled Sneaker Featuring ‘Betsy’ Ross Design After It Had Already Been Shipped
Nike was set to launch the Air Max 1 USA shoe featuring an early US flag design depicting 13 white stars to represent the first 13 colonies for July 4. The flag design is commonly called the Betsy Ross flag, though historians say there is no evidence she created the design.
Nike had already shipped the shoes to retailers when the company asked the stores to return the sneakers without any explanation, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“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,” a spokeswoman for the company told the Journal.
2. Colin Kaepernick Said The Design Had Been Appropriated by White Nationalist Groups
Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback blackballed by the league for leading the kneeling protests against racial inequality during the national anthem prior to games, reached out to Nike after he saw the design posted online, according to The Journal.
Kaepernick, who was part of a Nike campaign last year, told the company that he and others found the design offensive because of its connection to the era of slavery.
The flag has also been appropriated by some extremist groups as a symbol of white supremacy, the Journal reported.
In 2016, a Michigan school superintendent apologized after some students waved the Betsy Ross flag at a high school football game, MLive reported, explaining that the symbol had been used by some groups to promote white supremacy.
The NAACP said that the flag had been appropriated by “the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.”
3. Arizona Governor Threatens to Yank State Funds From New Nike Plant
Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz accused Nike of only wanted to “sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag” after the news broke.
Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey said the state would pull incentives it promised to Nike to build a new manufacturing plant and create 550 new jobs in response to the report.
“Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike,” Ducey wrote on Twitter.
“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,” he wrote. “It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.”
“Nike has made its decision, and now we’re making ours. I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here,” he announced. “Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history.”
“And finally, it shouldn’t take a controversy over a shoe for our kids to know who Betsy Ross is. A founding mother. Her story should be taught in all American schools. In the meantime, it’s worth googling her,” he added.
4. The Betsy Ross Flag is Actually a Myth, Historians Say
Despite all of the controversy, historians actually say that the Betsy Ross story is a myth.
“There simply is no credible historical evidence — letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, bills of sale — that Ross (then known as Elizabeth Claypoole) either made or had a hand in designing the American flag before it made its debut in 1777,” The Washington Post reported.
The story’s genesis appears to be in the 1870s, nearly a century after the first flag was created. The story appears to have begun from William Canby, Ross’s grandson, who told the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that his grandmother created the flag at George Washington’s request.
Canby said that family documents prove his story but historians say there is no credible evidence that the story is true. The story was later made part of American lore when artist Charles H. Weisgerber, who profited from the myth, painted Ross sitting in her home with the flag in her lap.
“While Ross did make flags in Philadelphia in the late 1770s, it is all but certain that the story about her creating the American flag is a myth,” The Post reported.
In 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson led the first national Flag Day, he was reportedly asked what he thought about the Betsy Ross story.
“Would that it were true,” he said, according to the Post.
5. Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Campaign Led to Boycott, Higher Profits
The backlash to Nike’s decision to cancel the sneaker is reminiscent of the backlash Nike received when it named Kaepernick the face of its 30th-anniversary campaign.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016 after he began kneeling during the national anthem prior to games to protest racial injustice. He later sued the league along with former teammate Eric Reid, accusing team owners of colluding to keep them out of the game for leading the protests. They later settled the lawsuit for under $10 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.
After he was blackballed from the league, Nike made Kaepernick the face of its ad campaign.
“Believe in something,” the ads said. “Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
President Trump complained that the ads sent a “terrible message” and many conservatives announced they would boycott the company, even burning some of their Nike merchandise in videos and photos posted online.
Within a month, Nike stock soared to historic highs and its income jumped by over $847 million, ABC News reported. Its share price is up more than 15 percent this year, The Wall Street Journal reported.