Nike pulls US flag-themed shoe after Kaepernick objection

Colin Kaepernick and Nessa attend the 2017 Time 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 25, 2017, in New York City. (AFP pic) 

Nike withdrew a shoe displaying an early version of the American flag after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick warned the design was associated with slavery, US media reported on Monday.

Nike had unveiled the Air Max 1 USA featuring an American Revolution-era design known as the Betsy Ross flag imprinted on its heel to coincide with the United States’s July 4 independence day.

The Wall Street Journal reported the US sportswear giant pulled the shoe following objections from Kaepernick, a Nike endorser who led kneeling protests during the national anthems of NFL games in 2016 to protest racial inequality and social injustice.

Kaepernick said the design featuring 13 white stars in a circle was offensive because it was associated with a period of slavery, which was legal in the US after independence from Britain.

White supremacist groups hostile to diversity have also recently appropriated the design, the newspaper said.

Nike shipped the shoes to retailers but then asked for them back, and had taken the design off its website, the Journal reported.

“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,” a Nike spokesman told the Journal.

The price of a few pairs available on an online shoe reseller rose to as much as US$2,000 following the publication of the Journal’s article, the newspaper said.

Kaepernick and former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid settled collusion lawsuits against the NFL earlier this year for less than US$10 million over claims team owners had plotted to keep them from playing.