NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Nike has yanked a new patriotic sneaker design just before it was set to hit store shelves because of the complaints from one of their most controversial endorsers.
The sneaker giant pulled their Air Max 1 USA shoe, which included a Revolutionary-era U.S. flag with 13 white stars in a circle on the back. The move came after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly told the company he and others found the flag offensive because of its connection to an era of slavery.
The shoe had been sent to retailers to go on sale this week for the Fourth of July holiday.
The decision caused an instant backlash among conservatives who accused Nike of denigrating U.S. history, with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey tweeting that he is asking the state’s Commerce Authority to withdraw financial incentives promised to Nike to build a plant in the state.
Others expressed surprise that the symbol known as the “Betsy Ross” flag, so named after the beloved Philadelphia woman credited with designing it, could be considered offensive. Although some extremist groups appear to have appropriated the flag, it is not widely viewed as a symbol of hate, and is used in museums that focus on 18th century U.S. history.
Nike said in statement that “it pulled the shoe based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.” The company pushed back against criticism that the decision was being “anti-American.”
“Nike is a company proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the U.S. Olympic team and U.S. Soccer teams,” Nike said.
Kaepernick was the first NFL athlete to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Some people called for boycotts after Nike featured him in a campaign last year that included a print ad featuring a close-up of his face and the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)