Nike’s decision to yank the Air Max 1 Betsy Ross release sneakers has received mixed responses from commentators, although some of them may have gotten their flags mixed up.
Former NFL quarterback and political activist Colin Kaepernick criticized the manufacturer for plans to release a shoe with Betsy Ross’ 13-star flag on the heel. The flag has come to be associated with white supremacist groups. Kaepernick, who has acted as a spokesperson for Nike, is also said to have considered the design to be linked to slavery.
Nike released a statement reading simply that the company decided to:
“halt distribution, based on concerns that [the sneaker] could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”
Texan Republican Ted Cruz tweeted his outrage at the decision yesterday, arguing the shoe’s withdrawal spoke to Nike’s intention to appeal to those who “hate the American flag”:
Cruz wasn’t the only critic of the company. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said he would withdraw the state’s offer of financial incentives to Nike to move to Arizona:
In a scathing nine-part series of tweets, the Governor said:
“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.”
Betsy Ross’ 13-star flag, created in the 1770s, represents the 13 original American colonies. Some, however, see more sinister associations between the flag and the white supremacist movement.
Keegan Hankes, research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), told Rolling Stone magazine:
“Historically, these symbols have been used by white supremacists, both to hearken back to a time when black people were enslaved, while also painting themselves as the inheritors of the ‘true’ American tradition.”
Given the now limited supply of the shoes, their price on StockX , the stock market for “things,” has shot up over 2,000 percent in value. Nike will fail to benefit from any of that pricing activity, however, acknowledging its misstep.
The product was an unfortunate distraction for the company, as it had achieved widespread admiration for its empowering May ad campaign, promoting women in sport.
That ad was, ironically, retweeted by Kaepernick.