Nike Won't Launch A Sneaker With The Betsy Ross Flag After Criticism

Nike canceled Monday’s launch of its new limited edition USA-themed Air Max 1 sneaker for the Fourth of July holiday after criticism that it featured an early American flag that some found to be offensive.

Critics reportedly included former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has endorsed Nike and appeared in its advertising campaigns. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kaepernick told Nike that he and others found the flag to be an offensive symbol because of its connection with the era of slavery.

People also called out Nike on social media for featuring a flag that flew in the US during slavery to celebrate Independence Day.

“I wasn’t free yet,” one commenter on Instagram said.

A Nike spokesperson confirmed it ultimately pulled the sneakers because of its use of the flag.

“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 statement said.

A spokesman for Kaepernick didn’t comment.

Images of the shoes had been spread on sneaker sites and social media ahead of the scheduled release, and some fans had been eager to buy the new Air Max. Along with a red, white, and blue color scheme, it featured an embroidered flag on the heel bearing 13 stars for the 13 original US colonies.

But on social media — particularly the Instagram account for Sneaker News — critics said the flag also carries racist history.

In recent years, the flag has also been used for political purposes, including by some white nationalists.

A 2018 story by The Outline noted the flag was on display in the home of a member of white nationalist group Identity Evropa.

In 2016, students at a high school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, displayed the Betsy Ross flag along with a Trump campaign flag. The students’ school superintendent later apologized to parents.

“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,” the apology said, reported at the time.

  • Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

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