Nike Pulls US Flag Design After Kaepernick Throws a Fit


Who’s in charge at Nike?

I’m just curious, here. For all I knew, it was still Phil Knight; I’m not exactly a sneaker guy and I’m perfectly comfortable with a dowdy pair of New Balances.

The CEO is apparently a gentleman by the name of Mark Parker. I would assume he makes most of the decisions, but when it comes to whether or not a product is too patriotic, the Oregon-based sneaker giant apparently farms it out to its most controversial spokesman.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, a Nike sneaker adorned with the Betsy Ross flag has been pulled after it was shipped to stores because former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick told the company that he and others thought the flag carried connotations of slavery.

Sources familiar with the matter told The Journal that the Air Max 1 USA — which had the original version of the flag with 13 stars on the heel — was recalled by the company from retailers without an explanation.

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Fox News reported that the sneaker was supposed to be released on Monday.

“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,” Nike said in a statement.

No mention was made of Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who sued the National Football League over an alleged conspiracy to keep him out of the league. He hasn’t played in the league since the 2016 season, a season in which he made headlines by protesting the national anthem for political reasons.

Do you think this shoe should have been recalled?

(Oh, and he also made comments praising Fidel Castro and wore socks depicting police officers as pigs.)

Kaepernick became a Nike endorser while that battle with the league was still ongoing, although the case has since been settled.

However, his role seems to go beyond endorser, if The Journal’s article is any indication.

“After images of the shoe were posted online, Mr. Kaepernick, a Nike endorser, reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery, the people said. Some users on social media responded to posts about the shoe with similar concerns,” The Journal reported.

“Mr. Kaepernick declined to comment.”

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This argument is specious at best.

It appears to hinge on two points: First, that anything from the era of our country’s founding is automatically offensive because we countenanced slavery; and second, that racists apparently like using the flag.

Yes, I bet you didn’t know this one. As The Journal reported, it’s not just the Confederate flag anymore:

“In 2016, the superintendent of a Michigan school district apologized after students waved the Betsy Ross flag at a high-school football game, saying that for some it is a symbol of white supremacy and nationalism, according to, a local news outlet. While the flag’s use isn’t widespread, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said at the time that it has been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to America’s increasing diversity.”

Most Americans are familiar, in some way at least, with the Betsy Ross flag. If you’ve been through America’s schools, you’re probably even familiar with the story behind it — 13 stripes and 13 stars, each representing one of the original colonies.

I can be almost certain that you weren’t familiar with the fact that an infinitesimal number of idiot extremists have taken to using the Betsy Ross flag.

The people at Nike certainly weren’t and most Americans weren’t, either.

I’m not surprised that this is actually a thing in a time where the “OK” symbol has been somehow linked with the concept of white supremacy, but that doesn’t mean we have to indulge such silliness.

Then again, I’m also not surprised that Nike is willing to, inasmuch as it was willing to make Colin Kaepernick a spokesman.

Whether or not you agree with the fact that he hasn’t played in the league since the 2016 season, there’s no escaping the fact that he hasn’t played in the league since the 2016 season — and his play was an object lesson in diminishing returns for some time before that.

Apparently, virtue signaling sells training shoes, and Colin Kaepernick is Nike’s virtue-signaler in chief.

But if we’re going to do this right, why not eliminate all artifacts of the Colonial era? This would include the Fourth of July itself — after all, we declared independence during the era of slavery.

Why release a shoe with the American flag at all? Or even acknowledge that it’s a holiday?

If you want to follow Kaepernick, do it right, Nike. After all, at least in this department, it appears he’s the one in charge here.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture