Nike-sponsored athlete Colin Kaepernick complained to the sportswear giant, but there’s now a backlash against their withdrawal.
Nike has become embroiled in a racism row over a pair of special edition US Independence Day trainers.
The company has withdrawn the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July trainer from stores after complaints it featured the Betsy Ross flag, which has associations with white nationalism.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is sponsored by Nike, was among the people to criticise the trainer.
But the decision to pull it from shops has not been universally applauded. The state of Arizona has withdrawn a $1million (£800,000) grant to help build a new Nike factory, with the governor claiming the company had bowed to political correctness.
The shoes feature the Betsy Ross flag on the heel, an old version of the US flag which features a ring of 13 stars, representing the country’s original 13 colonies.
It was created during the American Revolution, and was used as a symbol of independence from King George III of Britain.
However, this means it was also in use at a time when slavery was rife in America, and it was later adopted by the American Nazi party.
Today, its use is often associated with racism and white nationalism.
Nike reportedly decided to withdraw the trainer from stores after Kaepernick told the company he and others found the flag offensive because of its connection to an era of slavery, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Kaepernick was the face of Nike’s advertising campaign celebrating 30 years of its “Just Do It” slogan. His face featured on ads along with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.
The American footballer has not played in the NFL since 2016, after he spent the season protesting police brutality against black people by kneeling on the pitch during the national anthem. He has sued the league for colluding to keep him out.
Nike said in a statement: We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services. Nike made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.
Nike is a company proud of its American heritage and our continued engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the US Olympic team and US Soccer teams.
We already employ 35,000 people in the US and remain committed to creating jobs in the US, including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing centre which will create 500 new jobs.
Despite no longer being available in stores or on the Nike website, the trainers have been selling for as much as £1,500 (£1,190) on online trainer marketplace StockX.
Arizona’s governor, the Republican Doug Ducey, has heavily criticised Nike for pulling the trainers on Twitter. The governor’s office later confirmed $1m of state funding to help secure a Nike factory is built in the state, near Phoenix, is being withdrawn.
He said: Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike.
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.
Texas senator Ted Cruz also took aim at Nike, saying it only wants to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag.
The factory was set to create 500 jobs in Arizona. Nike is yet to confirm whether it still plans to build the plant in the state.