Nike is dropping sneakers featuring an early American flag, known as ‘Betsy Ross’, created in celebration of July Fourth after NFL star Colin Kaepernick complained the symbol was offensive.
The Air Max 1 USA shoes were set to go on sale this week for $140.
The 31-year-old quarterback, who is also a Nike endorser, said the old American flag emblazoned on the sneakers’ heel was offensive because of its links to an era of slavery, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Nike had already shipped the shoes to retailers when it asked for them to be returned without an explanation, according to the paper.
‘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 told the outlet.
However, the WSJ reported that some of the shoes made it onto the market — with an online retailer selling a pair for up to $2,000.
Kaepernick complained to the company after seeing images of the design online.
The NFL-player-turned-activist reportedly declined to comment.
The Betsy Ross flag, which features 13 white stars in a circle representing the 13 original U.S. colonies, was created during the American Revolution.
It was a time when lawmakers advocated for the expansion of slavery and declared that those born into slavery were slaves for life.
The flag has more recently been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to the country’s increasing diversity.
Twitter users had mixed reactions to the news of the recall.
‘The Betsy Ross flag has been turned into a symbol of white nationalism and domestic extremism.
Conservatives will whine, but Colin Kaepernick was right to speak out and Nike was right to pull the products,’ one person wrote.
Another Twitter user thanked Kaepernick for ‘shedding light on the fact that Betsy Ross’ flag is racist. I’m sitting here shaking now that I know that my history teachers left this vital piece of information from me.’
Others called Kaepernick ‘un-American’.
‘Nike just pulled a 4th of July themed shoe feat a Betsy Ross American Flag because complained saying it was “offensive”?!?!?! Can we just for ONE DAY Attempt to be Americans and be PROUD especially during the 4th of July! The day we became America?!,’ one person wrote.
‘I’m offended at how [Nike] support someone who doesn’t support their county,’ another person tweeted.
Kaepernick ignited a nationwide controversy in 2016 when he decided to protest inequality and racist police brutality by refusing to stand during the national anthem.
Since starting the demonstrations during the NFL preseason three years ago, Kaepernick has been joined by scores of other NFL players in the face of intense criticism, namely from President Donald Trump, who has referred to the protesters as ‘sons of b******’.
The demonstrations were primarily a reaction to the deaths of African-American men at the hands of law enforcement.
The free agent quarterback last played in the NFL in 2016, going unsigned since the kneeling protest.
In February, he settled collusion grievances that alleged the league and its teams conspired to keep Kaepernick and his former teammate Eric Reid unsigned because of their political activism.
The settlement was for less than $10 million.
Last September, Nike introducing Kaepernick as the new face of its ‘Just Do It’ ad campaign.
A month later, the company released a long-sleeved black t-shirt with the controversial free agent quarterback’s name emblazoned in reflective lettering along the back, and the $50 item sold out within only a few hours.
The move to make the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback the face of its ad campaign generated a backlash among some consumers, who set fire to Nike shoes.
But others were vocal in their support for Nike – which is one of the NFL’s biggest partners.
Despite the initial backlash and a share drop, the company reportedly made around $6 billion from the move.
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