Nike Pulls 'Betsy Ross Flag' Sneakers after Colin Kaepernick's Objection

Nike has pulled a USA-themed sneaker that featured the Betsy Ross American flag after former NFL quarterback and social justice activist Colin Kaepernick told the company that the 13-star flag celebrated the slavery era. The flag has since been adopted by several neo-Nazi groups.

The company planned to release an Air Max 1 USA to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Nike’s decision. The sneaker, in red, white, and blue, featured an early version of the US flag with 13 white stars in a circle to represent the 13 original colonies. The design was created during the American Revolution and is referred to as the Betsy Ross flag.

“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,” Nike said in a statement to The North Star.

When images of the sneakers were published online, Kaepernick reached out to Nike and said many felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol due to its connection to the slavery era, according to The Wall Street Journal.Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was signed as the face of a Nike advertising campaign in 2018. The 31-year-old last played with the NFL in 2016, when he began kneeling during the national anthem in protest to racial inequality and police brutality. He has been unsigned ever since.

The Betsy Ross flag, which is not widely used, has been appropriated by some extremist groups that promote white supremacy and nationalism.

Last summer, the Ku Klux Klan distributed flyers with a Klansman flanked by the Confederate flag and the Best Ross flag. A 2013 investigation by The Albany Herald in Georgia found that some local KKK groups required the use of the Betsy Ross flag or the Confederate flag during ritualistic meetings.Nike’s decision received immediate backlash from several Republican politicians, who claimed the move was unpatriotic. “It’s a good thing Nike only wants to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted.

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain tweeted: “Just so you know how this works now: Nothing can happen in America anymore if Colin Kaepernick doesn’t like it.”Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, announced that he had ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw incentives for the athletic-wear company to build a manufacturing plant in the state, Fox News reported.

“Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike,” Ducey tweeted. “Nike is an iconic American brand and American company. This country, our system of government, and free enterprise have allowed them to prosper and flourish.”Ducey continued: “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. It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.”

Ducey said Nike had made its decision and now the state had too. “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. 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.”The governor added that American children should not be learning about Betsy Ross due to the controversy, arguing that children should be taught about how Ross is credited with designing the first American flag.

Nike planned to build a manufacturing plan in Goodyear, Arizona and to invest $184.5 million, ABC 15 reported. The plant would reportedly create more than 500 jobs in the state. The city agreed to waive almost $1 million in plan review and permit fees and to reimburse the company an additional $1 million for the jobs it planned to create. Nike’s statement to The North Star suggested that the company still intended to build a manufacturing plant that would employ hundreds of people.

“Nike is a company proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the US Olympic team and US Soccer teams,” the statement said. “We already employ 35,000 people in the US and remain committed to creating jobs in the US, including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing center which will create 500 new jobs.”


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.