Nike Pulls ‘Betsy Ross Flag’ Shoe From Shelves

Nike has pulled a new Independence Day–themed shoe from store shelves after critics, including activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, expressed concerns about its design, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The limited-edition Air Max 1 sneaker was decorated with an early version of the American flag, often referred to as the “Betsy Ross flag.” Kaepernick, who was the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” advertising campaign last year, urged the sportswear giant to nix the shoe because of the flag’s problematic history, according to the Journal.

The flag, which was created around the time of the American Revolution, flew in the United States decades before slavery was abolished, and it is now occasionally used as a symbol by white supremacists, BuzzFeed noted.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) retaliated against Nike’s decision ― which he called a “shameful retreat” in a series of tweets ― by pulling financial incentives for building a new manufacturing 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 wrote.

The plant would have created more than 500 full-time jobs, according to local news outlet ABC 15 Arizona.

Kaepernick, who was exiled from the NFL after he began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, wasn’t the only person to lambast Nike for its design choice. 

“That’s too racist nope,” one Instagram user wrote of the new sneaker.

“Can’t wait for the Confederate Air Max 90s,” another quipped.

Nike confirmed to BuzzFeed and The Wall Street Journal that it had scrapped the new sneaker because of the flag design. 

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag,” a company spokesperson said.

The shoe, which was retailing for $110, had been slated for release on July 1. As sneaker-reselling site StockX shows, however, some customers were able to purchase the style before Nike pulled it. A few pairs have sold this week for more than $1,000.

The “Betsy Ross flag” is named after the American upholsterer of legend  ― though most scholars now agree she likely had nothing to do with the flag’s design. It features 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 stars representing the original U.S. colonies. 

According to The Outline, one such reproduction hangs in the home of a member of Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group.

The flag made headlines in 2016 after students from a predominantly white Michigan high school displayed it alongside a Trump campaign flag at a football game against a predominantly black high school. The superintendent of the Forest Hills School District later apologized for the symbol’s appearance at the game.

“To wave a historical version of our flag, that to some symbolizes exclusion and hate, injects hostility and confusion to an event where no one intended to do so,” Dan Behm said at the time, according to MLive.com.

Sara Boboltz contributed to this report. 

This story has been updated with the Arizona governor’s comments.