Nike reportedly pulled a limited-release shoe bearing a colonial American flag on the heel after hearing out the concerns of Colin Kaepernick.
The former 49ers quarterback objected to the inclusion of "a symbol that he and others consider offensive" on a limited-edition pair of the Nike Air Max 1, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. Kaepernick, a Nike athlete, reportedly took issue with the prominent placement of the Betsy Ross flag -- which features 13 white stars in a circle to represent the 13 colonies.
Nike recently pulled the shoes from their "own apps and websites," according to The Journal, and asked for retailers to return the shoes. Kaepernick first "reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery," according to The Journal.
About two months before the 2016 presidential election, students from a predominantly white high school in Grand Rapids, Mich., waved the Betsy Ross flag and a flag supporting Donald Trump's presidential campaign at a football game their school played against a predominantly black one. At the time, the Grand Rapids NAACP issued a statement saying the Betsy Ross flag had been appropriated by "the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.”
In a statement to The Journal, a Nike spokeswoman said “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."
In 2016, Kaepernick sat then kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. He became a free agent after opting out of his contract with the 49ers when the team told him after the season they would cut him if he didn't, and he remains an unsigned free agent.
Kaepernick and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who was the first NFL player to kneel alongside the QB, settled collusion grievances with the NFL earlier this year.
Nike continued to endorse Kaepernick throughout that time. This fall, Nike made Kaepernick the public face of its 30th anniversary "Just Do It" ad campaign. In February, the company released a black-and-white football jersey featuring Kaepernick's No. 7 and his last name on the back.