The story behind the insensitive flag that Nike almost put on its July 4 collection

Francis Akhalbey July 03, 2019
Nike called back its special commemorative Fourth of July Air Max 1 USA sneakers after concerns were raised

In a last minute move, Nike called back its special commemorative Fourth of July Air Max 1 USA sneakers with a Betsy Ross flag after concerns were raised about how offensive the white nationalist supported symbol is.

Set to go on sale this week, the heel on the sneakers featured the late 18-century flag which was created during the American Revolution. With 13 circled flags representing the 13 original colonies, the Betsy Ross designed flag, which was used from 1777 to 1795 was also, at a point in time, endorsed and used by the American Nazi party.

The Air Max 1 USA sneakers

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nike decided to instruct its retailers to return the already shipped sneakers after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others raised concerns about how the flag is linked to the slavery era in the United States. Kaepernick, however, did not comment on the issue when he was contacted by the Journal.

An American Nazi Party rally featuring the Betsy Ross flag — Photo Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images

“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 from Nike said.

Though the sneakers were officially pulled off the shelves, some sneaker selling sites managed to lay their hands on a few, with its value on StockX rising to as high as $2000.

On Tuesday, however, the CEO of StockX Scott Cutler announced they were removing the sneakers from the site as its sale “does not align” with the company’s “value system.”

In a statement to CNN Business, Nike further clarified its reason for calling back the sneakers.

“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 statement read. “Nike is a company proud of its American heritage.”

The decision by Nike to call back the sneakers was, however, criticized by a section of Americans.

The Republican governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey took to his Twitter page to condemn Nike’s “terrible decision” saying he was “embarrassed.”

“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 shared.

“It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.”

Ducey went as far as ordering the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw its $1 million financial incentive it was granting the company to set up a plant in the state.

“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,” he added.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz also criticized Nike’s move Tweeting they only want “to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag.”

Kaepernick, who has been without a National Football League (NFL) team since 2016 after he started kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality against blacks and other racial injustices was unveiled as the face of Nike’s ‘Just Do it’ 30th Anniversary campaign last year ruffling some feathers as a result.


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