Nike got a lot of publicity when it made Colin Kaepernick the face of its “Just Do It” campaign last September, but the sports apparel giant’s decision to take directions from such a polarizing figure has resulted in a public relations nightmare this week.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Nike pulled a line of Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July sneakers at the behest of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
Kaepernick urged the company not to sell the patriotic shoe because he deemed it “offensive,” the report said.
The reason? The heel of the sneaker features the 13-starred Betsy Ross flag from the 18th century — a time when slavery still existed in the United States.
Nike is yanking a sneaker featuring the “Betsy Ross flag” after Colin Kaepernick said he and others consider the symbol to be offensive https://t.co/eKVtPM6oTA
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) July 1, 2019
Unsurprisingly, the move to scuttle an America-themed shoe just before Independence Day has resulted in a major backlash on social media, including calls for a Nike boycott.
I didn’t burn all my @Nike stuff last time but I’ll remedy that now. The swoosh is forever banned in this household. I guess Phil Knight is good with this, Shoe Dog will make for good kindling. @nikestore @nikegolf https://t.co/h0X4O3bkUg
— Edward Bertoniere (@epbertoniere) July 1, 2019
— Julia Johnson (@juliaajohnson_) July 2, 2019
— Seth Sklar (@SethSklar) July 2, 2019
If it was ever in question, I will never buy @Nike shoes or apparel ever again.
— ⛰ Scoobysnax ?? (@BuffLo88) July 2, 2019
U.S. senators also chimed in.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 2, 2019
Nike thinks American flag is symbol of oppression? What planet are you on? Nike gladly allows Chinese Communist Party to tell it what products to sell while building its business around sweatshop labor. Nike is anti-American, pure & simple. https://t.co/AgHkCnVi33
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 2, 2019
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was so unhappy with the move that he revoked incentives the state had offered to Nike to build a plant there.
“Nike has made its decision, and now we’re making ours,” the Republican said. “I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here.
“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.”
Nike has made its decision, and now we’re making ours. I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here. 7/
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) July 2, 2019
Had the deal gone through, the state would have waived close to $1 million in plan review and permit fees and given Nike $1 million for putting the jobs in the state, according to The Arizona Republic.
Meanwhile, shares in Nike stock fell by more than 1 percent Tuesday amid the controversy.
All this because the company listened to Kaepernick, whose logic in linking the 1700s flag to slavery is absolutely absurd. The Betsy Ross flag represents freedom from tyranny and those who sacrificed their lives in the Revolutionary War to make the country exist in the first place.
Under Kaepernick’s logic, a lot would have to change.
For example, George Washington, the first president of the United States, led the country at a time when slavery was legal. His face appears on the nation’s currency and is carved into Mount Rushmore, and our capital and one of our states bear his name. Should all of that be eliminated?
The problem with Kaepernick’s line of thinking is it holds everything to the contemporary standard. History cannot be ignored. The evils of the past should be acknowledged and used as teaching tools, as should the great parts of the nation’s history.
Instead of celebrating the country, Nike made the mistake of listening to Colin Kaepernick in what will be remembered as a PR disaster.
Asked for comment Tuesday, the company told The Western Journal, “We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services. NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.
“Nike is a company proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the US Olympic team and US Soccer teams. We already employ 35,000 people in the U.S. and remain committed to creating jobs in the U.S., including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing center which will create 500 new jobs.”
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