Nike Yanks Betsy Ross 'Flag' Sneakers After Colin Kaepernick Intervenes, and Fans Have Words

Nike reportedly pulled sneakers with a Betsy Ross-style American flag on them from shelves at the [...]

Nike reportedly pulled sneakers with a Betsy Ross-style American flag on them from shelves at the urging of Colin Kaepernick, leaving many fans unhappy. The shoe brand had prepared a new product with the early version of the U.S. flag in time for the Fourth of July, yet according to the Wall Street Journal, Kaepernick called it an "offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery."

The planned sneakers were called the Air Max 1 USA, a running shoe embroidered with the original U.S. flag created by Betsy Ross in 1770. Where today's flag has an array of 50 stars for the 50 states, the original had a circle of 13 stars for the 13 colonies. According to sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, this was an inappropriate connection for Kaepernick and many others.

There have been many cases of the Betsy Ross-style flag being appropriated by white nationalist groups in recent years, as the Wall Street Journal noted. In 2018, The Outline reported that the flag was displayed by an extremist group called Identity Evropa.

In 2016, high school students in Grand Rapids, Michigan, displayed the flag right beside a Trump campaign flag. In an apology to parents, the superintendent noted that the "to some," the "historical version of our flag" "symbolizes exclusion and hate."

So far, Kaepernick has declined to comment on the story that he played a part in getting the sneakers pulled from shelves. A spokesperson for Nike said only that the company had decided "not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag."

Meanwhile, social media filled with fury over the report, and the symbolic debate in general. Many readers resented the implication that the Betsy Ross-style flag carried racist connotations, feeling that it went too far. A few tagged Kaepernick in their posts, but the former NFL player still did not confirm or deny the Wall Street Journal's story.

"Can we just for ONE DAY attempt to be Americans and be PROUD especially during the 4th of July!" wrote podcast host Graham Allen. "The day we became America?!"

"It's a good thing @Nike only wants to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag..." tweeted Ted Cruz.

Many more fired back with more accounts of the Betsy Ross-style flag being used by white supremacist groups, arguing that it was becoming a symbol of bigotry.

"They pulled it because that flag has been used as a symbol of hate by white extremists," one person wrote. "It represents the original colonies that did not recognize black people as fully human."

On the other hand, some felt that this appropriation of a national symbol was being taken too seriously, and it would only lead to the flag being further vilified as time went on.

Some of the canceled sneakers reportedly made it to the second hand market despite Nike's change of heart. Since production had been canceled on them, the Air Max USA became incredibly valuable, selling for as much as $2,500 in online circles.