You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Nike nixes Betsy Ross flag shoe after Kaepernick intervenes

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 7/2/2019 Khadeeja Safdar and Andrew Beaton
a birthday cake: Nike cancels American flag sneaker after Colin Kaepernick complains.© Provided by

Nike cancels American flag sneaker after Colin Kaepernick complains.

Nike Inc. is yanking a U.S.A.-themed sneaker featuring an early American flag after NFL star-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe with a symbol that he and others consider offensive, according to people familiar with the matter.

The sneaker giant created the Air Max 1 USA in celebration of the July Fourth holiday, and it was slated to go on sale this week. The heel of the shoe featured a U.S. flag with 13 white stars in a circle, a design created during the American Revolution and commonly referred to as the Betsy Ross flag.

After shipping the shoes to retailers, Nike asked for them to be returned without explaining why, the people said. The shoes aren’t available on Nike’s own apps and websites.

“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 Nike spokeswoman said.

Get news and analysis on politics, policy, national security and more, delivered right to your inbox

After images of the shoe were posted online, Mr. Kaepernick, a Nike endorser, reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery, the people said. Some users on social media responded to posts about the shoe with similar concerns. Mr. Kaepernick declined to comment.

The design was created in the 1770s to represent the 13 original colonies, though there were many early versions of the America flag, according to the Smithsonian. In 1795, stars were added to reflect the addition of Vermont and Kentucky as states.

In 2016, the superintendent of a Michigan school district apologized after students waved the Betsy Ross flag at a high-school football game, saying that for some it is a symbol of white supremacy and nationalism, according to Mlive.com, a local news outlet. While the flag’s use isn’t widespread, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said at the time that it has been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to America’s increasing diversity.

Mr. Kaepernick, 31 years old, last played in the NFL in 2016, the season he began kneeling on the field during the national anthem to call attention to social injustices and racial inequality. He has gone unsigned since and, along with former teammate Eric Reid, recently settled collusion grievances that alleged the league and its teams conspired to keep them unsigned because of their outspoken political views. The settlement was for less than $10 million, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Last year, Nike made Mr. Kaepernick the face of an advertising campaign while he was still engaged in that dispute with the league—a risky move given Nike’s role as one of the NFL’s biggest partners. The campaign generated a backlash among some consumers, who began torching Nike shoes and cutting its swoosh logo out of gear. The protests were countered by expressions of support for Nike.

Since the ad was released, Nike has posted higher sales, boosted by strong demand in both the U.S. and China. In the fourth quarter, sales rose 4% to $10.18 billion. Its share price has climbed more than 15% so far this year.

At least some shoes have already made their way to sneaker enthusiasts. Versions of the Air Max 1 USA were changing hands on sneaker-reselling site StockX for as much as $500 on Monday, according to the site.

Related video: Inside Sneaker Con: 500% Markups and Millions in Profit

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal.
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon