Nike has pulled a sneaker from US shelves in response to claims it promotes Nazi ideology.
Scheduled for release this week in celebration of America's Independence Day, the sportswear giant recalled the limited edition Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July trainers bearing the Betsy Ross flag, a slavery-era symbol that in recent years has been co-opted by neo-Nazis.
As the Wall Street Journal first reported, the pressure came from former American NFL player and Nike campaign face Colin Kaepernick, who said the Betsy Ross flag is problematic because of its connotations with slavery, racism and white nationalist groups.
"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 spokesman told the WSJ.
The Betsy Ross flag, which features a circle of 13 stars, was created during the American Revolution when the country was made up of 13 colonies who called for an expansion and cementing of slavery practices. It was later adopted for use by the American Nazi party.
The shoes, priced at $210 (US$140) have divided Americans, with some threatening to boycott Nike, while others say the decision is political correctness gone mad.
The governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, was so incensed over the decision he announced he was ordering the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw incentives for the sportswear giant to build a manufacturing plant in the state.
Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. 5/— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) July 2, 2019
"Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation's independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism," Ducey said.
"We don't need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation's history."
Nike planned to build a massive manufacturing plant in Goodyear, investing US$184.5 million. The plant reportedly was going to create more than 500 jobs.
Nike is an iconic American brand and American company. This country, our system of government and free enterprise have allowed them to prosper and flourish. 4/
Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation's independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. 5/
Meanwhile Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican, wrote on Twitter, "It's a good thing Nike only wants to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag."
Yep, I own lots of @Nike I’ve been a life-long customer, since I was kid. But they’ve now decided their shoes represent snide disdain for the American flag. Since they don’t want my business anymore, I won’t buy any more. Can anyone recommend a good sneaker co that’s not so woke? https://t.co/XQfO9Dh737— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 2, 2019
Despite Nike instructing stores to return the controversial footwear, some pairs made it onto shelves and are being sold on auction sites for as much as $3000.
Kapernick, who once played for the San Francisco 49ers, is an equality activist who was frozen out of the NFL after leading the "take a knee" movement, which saw players kneel during the American national anthem at football games in protest of police brutality against people of colour, and social injustice more broadly.
Kaepernick and former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid settled collusion lawsuits against the NFL earlier this year for less than US$10 million over claims team owners had plotted to keep them from playing.
Kaerpernick was once of the NFL's most sought-after players, but he has not been signed following his kneeling protest in 2016.
Betsy Ross was a Philadelphia seamstress credited with creating the first flag for the 13 colonies that made up the United States in the late 1700s.
However, most modern US scholars dispute that account as myth, because there is no documentation to prove the claim, which first cropped up nearly 100 years after Ross supposedly made the flag, according to the Washington Post.
The story is considered to be "largely fictitious" according to the US National Archives.
"It is likely that her grandson, William J. Canby, developed the story in the 1870s and that her only connection to the American flag was as a Philadelphia flag maker who sewed flags and banners for the United States military."
In the 1900s the flag was co-opted by the American Nazi Party, who displayed it prominently at rallies.
It's continued to be embraced by right-wing, white nationalist and anti-diversity groups, meaning it now represents hate, racism and exclusion to many Americans.
As recently as last year, Ku Klux Klan flyers were distributed in Upstate New York that featured the Betsy Ross flag, CNN reported.