Colin Kaepernick tanks Betsy Ross's Nike sneaker deal and conservatives are mad

Suddenly folks on the right are upset they can't buy this one pair of Nikes to prove they're patriotic?

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published July 2, 2019 12:00PM (EDT)

Colin Kaepernick; Betsy Ross flag Nike Air Max (Getty/Jamie McCarthy/Twitter/WSJ/Salon)
Colin Kaepernick; Betsy Ross flag Nike Air Max (Getty/Jamie McCarthy/Twitter/WSJ/Salon)

Colin Kaepernick is back in the news for being patriotic.

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal reported that Nike decided to yank a special 4th of July Betsy Ross Air Max 91 off of the shelves after Kap stepped in with concerns of what the 1792 flag meant to black people. In a statement to CBS News, the multibillion dollar sneaker company said it "has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag."

The 31-year-old former San Francisco quarterback is best known for sparking a nationwide nonviolent protest by taking a knee during the National Anthem as a stance against police violence. His nonviolent protest made racists furious and prematurely ended his NFL career; he settled a collusion case against the NFL for an estimated $10 million and became the face of Nike's "Just Do It" 30th anniversary campaign.

Kap has also been running workshops on social justice through his Know Your Rights camps and took the time to raise over $1 million dollars for grassroots activists all over the country.

The red, white and blue Nike sneaker in question featured a 1792 version of Betsy Ross’ flag — a flag that represented freedom from England for white people, while slavery continued to flourish in the newly-formed United States. The same chorus of people complaining about Kap's National Anthem protest are back up in arms over Nike’s decision. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, for example, tweeted, “No more @nike sneakers for our family.”

Because if Nike hadn't yanked the shoe, the Ingraham family would have been standing in line on July 2 to buy their own pair of Betsy Rosses? Owning a pair of special edition Nikes means you truly love your country?

Now Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, is fighting to remove incentives Arizona had offered Nike for building a manufacturing plant in his state.

“Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike.” Ducey tweeted in a thread, “Nike is an iconic American brand and American company. This country, our system of government and free enterprise have allowed them to prosper and flourish"

Ducey continued:

“Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.

“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. 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.

“And finally, it shouldn’t take a controversy over a shoe for our kids to know who Betsy Ross is. A founding mother. Her story should be taught in all American schools. In the meantime, it’s worth googling her.”

Ducey is willing to punish a company creating jobs in his state as if he had personally been on the front lines advocating for Nike to honor Besty Ross with a sneaker because she had rushed for so many yards and scored so many touchdowns back in the 1700s? The energy given to maintaining racist traditions by people like Ducey is amazing. How is Nike canceling a shoe that could potentially offend millions of citizens, some of whom live in his state, disappointing? The only thing that is disappointing is his response.

If Ducey truly feels that "this country, our system of government and free enterprise have allowed them [Nike] to prosper and flourish" then he should understand that Kaepernick gave Nike a $6 billion dollar bump, while Betsy Ross has given them zero. Canceling the 1792 flag design because Kaepernick spoke out is nothing more than free enterprise at work.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new book, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," is out now.

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Air Max All Salon Betsy Ross Colin Kaepernick Culture Fashion Flag Nike Sneakers