Nike hasto release a red, white and blue version of its Air Max 1 sneakers ahead of the July 4 holiday. According to the Wall Street Journal, the choice was made following concerns raised by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is the face of Nike’s “Just Do It.” .
In a statement to CBS News Monday night, Nike said it “chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July because it featured the older version of the American flag.” The shoe’s design included a depiction of the “flag of Betsy Ross”, which features 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 stars to represent the original American colonies.
On Tuesday, Nike said in an updated statement to CBS News: “We routinely make business decisions to retire initiatives, products and services. NIKE has made the decision to stop distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July due to concerns of unintentionally offending and harming the nation’s patriotic holiday.”
Sources told the WSJ that Kaepernick contacted Nike after photos of the shoes were published, saying the design could be considered offensive because of its association with an era of slavery. The flag first appeared in 1792 at a time when lawmakers advocated the expansion of slavery and officially declared those born into slavery to be slaves for life.
After shipping the shoes to retailers, Nike requested that they be returned without giving a reason, sources told the WSJ. The shoes aren’t available on Nike’s websites or mobile apps, but Air Max 1 USA versions featuring the flag are still available on the StockX resale site.
CBS News has contacted Kaepernick for further comment and is awaiting a response. Kaepernick is a former quarterback who played for the San Francisco 49ers until the end of the 2016 season. During that season, he sat and then knelt during the playing of the national anthem in protest against police brutality and racial inequality.
Kaepernick and his former teammate Eric Reidalleging the NFL agreed to keep him off the field for his political activism in February for less than $10 million.
Nike has already received fierce backlash for its decision to retire the Betsy Ross American flag sneakers. On Tuesday, Arizona Governor Doug Duceyfinancial incentives recently offered to Nike to build an $185 million factory and create 500 jobs in the state.
In a statement to CBS News on Tuesday, Nike said the company is “proud of its American heritage and our continued commitment to supporting thousands of American athletes, including the US Olympic team and US soccer teams. We We already employ 35,000 people in the United States and remain committed to creating jobs in the United States, including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing center that will create 500 new jobs.”