Nike won’t release its newest Air Max shoes, which feature a version of the American flag that flew during slavery, after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly lodged a complaint with the company.
The shoe was scheduled to go on sale on the Fourth of July, but Kaepernick told Nike he and others took offense to the symbol on the heel of the shoe, a flag with 13 stars arranged in a circle commonly referred to as the “Betsy Ross” version, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Nike then asked retailers to return already shipped Air Max 1 USA shoes without explaining why.
“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 spokeswoman told the WSJ.
Some white nationalists, like members of groups like Identity Evropa and right-wing militia, Patriot Prayer, have also co-opted the old version of the American flag. And Filmmaker Spike Lee noted in an interview this year with Politico that the Betsy Ross-era flag is an example of entrenched racism in America.
“It’s embroidered, it’s sewn into the flag by Betsy Ross,” he said. “It’s part of the DNA of this country.”
Some of the shoes must have made their way to the public because they were selling on the sneak re-sale site StockX. With the news of Nike pulling the shoes, prices shot up. The most recent sale was a pair of size 8s for $2,501.
Kaepernick is a Nike endorser and has been featured in commercials for the brand that played off his political stances. The former San Francisco 49er sparked the kneeling protests in the NFL aimed at raising awareness of the oppression people of color suffer in America.
As other NFL players joined and the protests grew, Kaepernick became a lightning rod for criticism — most notably from President Donald Trump — and hasn’t been signed by a team since 2016.. He sued the NFL claiming collusion, before ultimately settling for a figure less than $10 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Cover image: Colin Kaepernick attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "Camp: Notes on Fashion" exhibition on Monday, May 6, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)