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Nike is back into the public sphere with its latest decision to pull one of their shoe designs.
Nike's now pulled design, the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July, an Americana-inspired design that featured the original American flag believed to have been created by Betsy Ross, was released in time for Independence Day.
However, following seeing the sneakers, Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL Quarterback and outspoken Human Rights Activist who collaborated with Nike in 2018, spoke to Nike officials, saying that the “Betsy Ross” flag design, the flag with 13 stars in a circle that appears on the heel of the new shoe, was not only associated with slavery (because a quick review of history reveals that said flag flew not only during a time of the American Revolution but also a time of slavery. Enslaved peoples wouldn't achieve their own freedom until over a century and a half after the American Revolution), but also racism.
How is the Betsy Ross flag racist? Well, while neither the actual flag nor Betsy Ross is believed by historians to be racist, the NAACP previously denounced the specific Ross flag design in 2016 when one of the Michigan chapters of the NAACP associated it with militia groups promoting white supremacy.
While Kaepernick warned Nike about the flag specifically because it flew during an era in which slavery was in practice, others have rebuked the Ross flag specifically due to its ties to supremacist and extremist groups such as white supremacist group called III% and the Ku Klux Klan. III% was actually photographed posing with the Ross flag, while the KKK distributed miniature Betsy Ross flags at a rally and used images of it in their propaganda.
In response to Kaepernick's warning, Nike, having already shipped the sneakers to stores, requested retailers return the shoes without providing an explanation to sellers. Following the recall, prices for the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July surged to over $2,000 for a pair on sneaker resale sites like StockX, whose site later stopped sales of the shoes, too. StockX's CEO Scott Cutler said that the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July design "doesn’t align with our value system."
News of Nike pulling the Ross flag-embroidered shoes prompted outrage from the conservative community. In response to the controversy, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted on Monday that he would withdraw the tax incentives that had been offered to Nike to start a plant in the state. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz reacted angrily in a thread of tweets, writing that "Nike only wants to sell shoes to people who hate the American flag."
Others shared their support for Kaepernick’s decision. California's Governor Gavin Newsom welcomed Nike to his state, tweeting, "Hey, @Nike—we’re just a quick jaunt over the border... Thank you for doing the right thing. CA is open for business and welcomes those that represent the best of our American values."
Other's had more harsh things to say:
The Nike backlash from conservatives calling for a boycott of the company completely ignores the fact that the flag is associated with supremacists and domestic terrorists. Instead of being outspoken against these hate groups who have co-opted the symbol they obviously treasure, the conservative community chooses to mislabel Nike as "unpatriotic" and "unAmerican," missing the entire point.
It's not about the flag, it is about what the flag now symbolizes, which is violence and hate. Instead of lashing out about their America being appropriated by extremists, it is easier to blame a corporation rather than alienate potential conservative voters, because corporations cannot vote, but extremists can.
At the moment, Nike isn't sweating it. Currently, Nike stock is up, only experiencing a brief dip after the sneakers were pulled. However, with moves like this, Nike is solidifying its progressive stance in society. By pulling this design, Nike really puts its money where its mouth is.
Nike shows that, in matters of social justice, it is really willing to "just do it."