Colin Kaepernick asked Nike to pull their ‘Betsy Ross flag’ sneakers, Nike complies

Colin Kaepernick at arrivals for Camp: N...

In the iconography of America, Betsy Ross’s flag looms large. During the American Revolutionary War, George Washington personally commissioned Ross to sew a flag representing the thirteen former colonies with stars. I believe Washington had the original idea of the red, white and blue color scheme and the general design, which Ross tweaked (with Washington’s ultimate approval). Most American children learn about Betsy Ross in school, and maybe it’s changed since my day, but I always remember the story of Betsy Ross being rather unproblematic, even by today’s standards. That’s what Nike probably thought when they decided to feature Ross’s 13-star flag on their latest sneakers. Only now Nike has pulled all of those sneakers because Colin Kaepernick and others complained.

Nike is pulling sneakers featuring an early American flag after former NFL football player Colin Kaepernick told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe that he and others consider offensive, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Kaepernick contacted Nike officials saying he and others felt the “Betsy Ross” flag — featuring 13 stars in a circle — featured on the shoes was linked to a period of slavery, the sources told WSJ.

The Nike shoes were to be released in celebration of the July Fourth holiday. The Betsy Ross flag is one type that was flown during the American Revolution.

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag,” Nike said in a statement to CNBC. Nike asked retailers to return the shoes after they were shipped, the WSJ reported. The company did not explain why, the report added. They are unavailable on Nike apps and websites.

[From CNBC]

So it wasn’t that Betsy Ross was herself a controversial or problematic figure – WAS SHE? – it’s just that the Ross flag represents a time where slavery was part of the everyday American experience, and because in the modern context, white supremacists and neo-Nazis have “adopted” the Ross flag because… they’re idiots. . I get that, and… I don’t know, I guess Nike made the right decision. It’s a matter of degrees for me – I absolutely think that the “women of the revolution” should be celebrated more and Betsy Ross was a fascinating figure in the formation of America and Revolutionary War history. But Nike wanted to put her flag on their shoes for profit and without much of any historical context OR modern context. Oh well. I’m sure Fox News is going to spend WEEKS talking about this.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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92 Responses to “Colin Kaepernick asked Nike to pull their ‘Betsy Ross flag’ sneakers, Nike complies”

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  1. Veronica S. says:

    The real story here should be the Arizona governor threatening to pull Nike plant incentives over this move. Because apparently, interfering with the market isn’t acceptable when it comes to things like…healthcare or….wages, but it’s totally fine to do it to front your political agenda.

    • Esmom says:

      Why am I completely unsurprised by this? I’m literally just so worn down.

    • Derriere says:

      Just send the governor some signed shoes. They’ll definitely calm down after that.

  2. Chef Grace says:

    Has the orange white supremacist in charge had a Twitter tantrum yet?
    Hope he does and pops a major brain vein.

    • Incredulous says:

      He’s a wee bit busy with his ridiculous tanks display and saying homelessness was invented two years ago and cops get ill in proximity to homeless people.

      He is sun-downing hard these days.

      • Bettyrose says:

        What a bizarrely accurate recap of the last couple days. 😒

      • GMonkey says:

        It’s so weird that he would say that homelessness only began 2 years ago. Not because it’s wrong. That’s his M.O. It’s weird because it makes him look bad. I’m surprised that he didn’t pretend that the levels have drastically reduced since he went into office. He must be losing it if he lies in ways that don’t increase his perceived worth.

    • original_kellybean says:

      Fingers crossed…

    • Tiffany says:

      You know it’s coming Grace.

      How dare a black man that I helped get blackballed have to audacity to speak up and have someone listen and comply.

  3. Iknow says:

    I go back and forth with this. History is history and though our history doesn’t withstand our standards today, should we act as if it didn’t happen? The answer is: We cannot forget, but we cannot glorify it. Betsy sewed a flag, with possibly her some black, enslaved hands tending to her home so she can sew the flag. I would be fine with this flag idea if America as a whole, weren’t trying everyday to dilute the atrocity of slavery. This is a new day, with new standards. Also, Nike knows who its consumers are.

    • Wow says:

      My understanding, is it has nothing to do with betsy ross, slavery or the 13 colonies.

      My understanding is white nationalists groups wave the flag. If these groups hadn’t adopted the flag as a symbol of hate this wouldn’t be an issue.

      • Bettyrose says:

        I’ve thought a lot about this in a week of commercialization of LGBT pride. We’re a capitalist society, and in many ways equality is achieved through recognition of consumer power (as carefully laid out in Susan Faludi’s backlash). We’re understandably suspicious when social justice is marketed by corporations, but Nike made an economic decision based on a cultural analysis that association with white supremacy hurts sales. That sort of means we’re winning.

      • BabaBlacksheep says:

        That’s the thing though, I can’t find ANY proof that those groups actually use this flag at all. The only people that do is the Department of Veteran Affairs.

      • Megan says:

        @Baba – check out pictures from Trump’s rallies. You will see plenty of Betsy Ross flags.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Betsy Ross came from a Quaker background, and Quakers were abolitionists, so she didn’t actually grow up owning slaves. As far as I can tell, she never engaged in the practice through any of her three marriages, either. This being said – it is absolutely correct to say it represents a point in American history where we were backhandedly stating “all men are created equal” while women and minorities were (in some cases, literally) treated like chattel.

      • Kathy Benjamin says:

        Betsy Ross probably had nothing to do with the first flag. Her involvement isn’t mentioned ANYWHERE until 100 years after the fact, and her decedents were the ones who started pushing the narrative, based solely on their alleged family stories. Is it possible those stories are accurate? I guess. Do I think it’s more likely some industrious great-grandson decided to make his family important post-Civil War? Yeah.

  4. Megan says:

    Ugh, this is why diversity in the workplace matters. White nationalists have been waving that flag for years.

  5. Carrie says:

    I don’t understand why Colin has so much pull at Nike? Is that strange?

    • Maddie says:

      Agreed. I also don’t get why anyone listens to the guy. He was an average at best QB that needs to stop throwing hissy fits at the NFL and go away.

      • Lizzie says:

        o rly?

      • joanne says:

        Protesting how black people are treated is not “throwin hissy fits at the NFL”. He started out with peacefully protesting and was blacklisted by the NFL. Why should he go away for standing and demanding justice for black people? Your comment is why he is needed.

      • Nev says:


        exactly why it is needed.
        they still don’t get it.

      • ByTheSea says:

        White supremacy at its best. Hissy fit? Wow. Must be great to be so privileged that you can totally lack empathy for all the injustice others have to go through.

      • ChiaMom says:

        Hissy fits?! Dog Whistler it’s you that’s need to go. And everyone like you.

      • whatWHAT? says:

        and we have our first white supremacist of the day.

        Kap is a very intelligent person who has used his free time (due to being blackballed) to act as an advocate for a lot of very good causes.

        it’s too bad that his calling attention to the racial inequalities and police brutality against unarmed black men and women (and MURDER of those segments of the population) makes you uncomfortable. it’s too bad your fragile white sensibilities are so harmed by this. maybe you should get some therapy to deal with it.

      • MellyMel says:

        Hissy fits? I have to laugh! The ignorance!

      • Esmom says:

        Ok, Maddie.

      • kerwood says:

        Funny thing, every time a police officer guns down an innocent, unarmed Black man/woman/child for simply EXISTING, and then walks, I feel like throwing a HISSY FIT too.

      • Pineapple says:

        Maddie … “hissy fits” … he is protesting the murder of human beings. That is as far from a hissy fit as you can get. He thoughtfully and peacefully kneeled. He intelligently kneeled. I have no love of football. But a human being who risks his livelihood for other human beings? That in my book, denotes a hero.

      • Jaded says:

        Maddie, your racism is showing. Colin K did a very brave thing, risked and lost a good career, to make the point that racism and white supremacy are intolerable in today’s society so he quietly kneeled. It’s not like he was ranting and raving or spewing invective about it.

      • Val says:

        Becky, is that you?

      • Snowflake says:

        Being upset upset citizens are being brutalized by police is not a hissy fit. It’s standing up for what’s right. Yes he was a mediocre football player. He might be mixed but he’s not white enough to think standing up for black people will make him popular. In the eyes of society, he’s still the n word to many. My mixed pretty co worker who got called the n word by a customer didn’t get called that cause she’s seen as white. And he knows that. So stop trying to make it out like it’s a publicity stunt or disrespectful to the flag blah blah. You’re just trying to distract from the real issue. Cause ya don’t care. Just be honest.we all know that’s what it is, just admit it.

    • Millenial says:

      He has a lot of cultural power. His kneeling was a big moment and he has a lot of influence. Nike doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of the matter and Republicans are going to buy Nike anyways.

      • Megan says:

        He politely informed Nike they were about to step into a sh@t storm. Don’t blame Kap, blame the product designers at Nike who clearly didn’t bother to google “Betsy Ross flag” to see that it has been co-opted by the most racist people in America.

      • TQB says:

        Exactly. He wasn’t all that as a QB, and likely he never thought the kneeling would have the impact it has. But he did it, and now regardless of his talent for the game or his intentions, he is a person with power, who has continued to step forward to back that up. He didn’t set out to be the front lines of this, but he has stepped up in an impressive way since.

    • Some chick says:

      He’s a spokes athlete of theirs. Just FYI.

    • Derriere says:

      They made a whole commercial centered around Colin. He had the top-selling jersey at Nike and wasn’t even an active player. He has a contract with them.

      If you don’t know why he has pull, get off the site and google him. It’s not that hard. And yet…ignorance is bliss.

    • Lena says:

      I don’t think they pulled it because of his pull, I think they took him serious, researched the issue and realised that he was correct that nazis were indeed using the flag.

      • Heather says:

        I genuinely did not know this. I thought it was dumb that they were pulling the shoes and thought it was because of the time the flag was made or something? But if it is a true, modern day symbol of white supremacy then definitely the right move.

  6. Miles says:

    But doesn’t Nike have other stuff that has the American flag on it? A flag that he’s currently protesting (for good reason btw). Or is it because that flag has been adopted by White Nationalist which is the issue?

    • Some chick says:

      Colin is not “protesting the flag.”

      He is protesting police brutality against, and murder of, black people. As he has repeatedly said.

      • Miles says:

        I’ve heard other POC say that they protest the flag because of what it currently stands for (police brutality and violence against POC) so I apologize for stating it that way.

    • ByTheSea says:

      Not the flag. If the shoe had the current flag, it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s that flag and Betsy Ross (who was known to sing racist songs).

      • pantanlones en fuego says:

        No offense, but are you confusing Betsy Ross with Kate Smith? I have never heard anything about Betsy Ross being racist or singing racist songs. As someone mentioned before, she was a Quaker so they were against much of what was going in in the colonies at the time.

      • ByTheSea says:

        @Pantalones – you’re right! Carry on. 🙂

      • Onemoretime says:

        @ Miles no America black person has ever said it was about the flag! As a black person I see it everyday and know exactly what the protest is about. The unjust killing of Africa American men, women and children by the police with no repercussions. Just out right murder for things like walking, working and driving while black. Not that this is anything new for us, just cell phone cameras and internet is actually showing proof. That flag crap is just another way to derail the conversation because it makes other uncomfortable and don’t want to hear if.

    • ChiaMom says:

      Miles why you here everyone knows what he is protesting, and it’s not the flag. This faux ignorance of his protest ran out years ago,.

      • Miles says:

        I accidentally misspoke. I know he’s protesting police brutality. But I’ve heard other POC say that they protest the flag and what it currently stands for i.e. racism, police brutality, and the disregard to minorities in general.

        I’m not a white supremacist but apparently misspeaking makes one so *sigh*

    • MellyMel says:


  7. Tallia says:

    I, personally, am on the fence with this. The flag was not conceived with the intent of “promoting” slavery, etc. It was created by a woman and it’s intent was to reflect the 13 colonies. Some d-bags have decided to use it , but that can happen with any imagery. Then again, I am not a person of color, so I am going to defer to the people who actually may be hurt and angered by this imagery, attempt to understand their view point and try to be a good white ally. I am all for a informative discussion where I can learn more.

    • Elkie says:

      The swastika, flag of St. George and Pepe the Frog were all originally designed with good intentions.

      In conclusion, right wing extremists ruin anything.

      • Jen says:

        Pepe?? Dear lord, I need to catch up on my googling.

      • duchess of hazard says:

        @Jen – yeah, the creator of Pepe the frog had to kill it (metaphorically) because he couldn’t reclaim it to the space he first put it across as. Once right wingers gloam onto your stuff, just kill it dead.

      • Desdemina says:

        Yeah, as someone who watches Twitch a lot these days, I often have to turn the comments off because I can’t deal with all the Pepes. I know that community was using it long before it became a racist symbol but I can’t unsee it now.

    • ChiaMom says:

      Sounds like you’ve got your opinion. People of color don’t owe you any more education than what they bring to the table as he did here.

    • Mia4s says:

      Sure it would be nice if the flag could be reclaimed from white nationalists at some point. But at the moment the United States is keeping Brown children in concentration camps. Soooo, it would be a steep climb to not look like white nationalists while wearing that flag. If the shoe fits, so to speak.

      Given the obscene amount of money Nike has made selling overpriced sneakers to African American youth, the least they can do is start to take cues from POC.

    • frankly says:

      I grew up in Minnesota/Wisconsin where there is Viking memorabilia, monuments, art and festivals etc. everywhere. My grandparents – who were Norwegian – had little viking figures and art all over their house. Now, I would love to have some of that around to remember my grandparents and lefse and walleye fishing and all that stuff I grew up with, but unfortunately it has been co-opted by white supremacists. I’d love to get a kickass tattoo of the Scandinavian motifs and ravens that were a part of my upbringing, but it’s off the table. That’s not something I would want to be associated with in any way, even though the iconography is a part of my family history. Me wanting to feel cool isn’t worth someone else feeling shitty. So I just eat pickled herring and talk crap about the Packers.

      • Malificent says:

        Same issue here. From the upper Midwest with Scandinavian grandparents. Had to explain to my tween son the other day that he can’t get a cool Norse rune tattoo when he’s older because people will think he’s an Odinist or some other disgusting white supremacist.

      • kerwood says:

        Take it back. If it’s your heritage and you’re proud of it, don’t let the scum sully it. I’ll bet I have more Scandinavian blood than those White supremacists (African–Canadian with Caribbean roots here) and they probably couldn’t name the Scandinavian countries OR find them on an atlas.

        Don’t let them win.

      • frankly says:

        I wish I could, but unfortunately I now live on the Redneck Riviera, Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast, and at this time there’s no real way to make anything Scandinavian look like anything but a confederate flag-adjacent homage to the KKK.

    • DS9 says:

      13 colonies, many of whom were built on slavery and slave labor, just to clarify

  8. Coco says:

    The shoes themselves look kind of ugly.

    If they were a 4th of July tie-in then the product has already been made. Too bad no one stopped them before the production phase to save all the Third World workers from more underpaid labor.

  9. Valiantly Varnished says:

    This is the problem with American education as it pertains to history. It perpetuates myth until it becomes fact. There is no real historical evidence showing that Betsy Ross made the first flag. Literally no one can prove that she has anything to do with its design or making it. It was an apocryphal story that was told again and again until people believed it to be true.

    • Kiera says:

      Her son helped propagate the story. She’s actually my great something or other. Aunt I think, and even I know the historical accuracy on this is questionable.

    • megs283 says:

      Yes, also the problem with American history: people on this post have said she owned slaves and that she sang racist songs. Neither of which are probably true, since she was a Quaker. Whatever happened to learning about a subject before making accusations?

      • Catarina says:

        meg283: Agree completely!! The occasional posts here claiming that Betsy Ross “sang racist songs” and owned slaves are astounding, as they are also completely factually inaccurate. Ross was raised a Quaker and, in keeping with that upbringing, was an abolitionist who never owned slaves. I have no idea why people continue to spew out groundless stories about her when, nowadays, we have Google—so if you’re not 100% that your condemnation (or praise) of someone is based in actual fact, just CHECK FOR YOURSELF, FIRST, before spewing lies. It can genuinely help us all to avoid looking 100% foolish.

  10. Patty says:

    I for one don’t understand Americans obsession with the friggin flag to begin with. It’s so friggin cultlike.

    • Esmom says:

      It’s really become a disingenuous symbol of “patriotism” for the right wing. Remember the (faux) outrage when a Democrat doesn’t wear a flag pin? People are so sanctimonious (about the anthem too) but do little more than talk rather than act on any sort of principle to effect any sort of change for anything that benefits anyone beyond themselves.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      It’s Nationalism… which leads to fascism

    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      The American flag is a litmus test to determine whether someone is patriotic enough — as in, do they sufficiently support white rights, christian religion, police powers, subjugation of women and minorities, and gun rights. If one does not worship the flag as a holy relic, then they are definitely anti-troop, and possibly socialist homosexuals.

    • Betsy says:

      I dunno. I grew up in a “flag” house. I still follow flag code. I like having a symbol. I like being an American.

      It all started to go wonky after 9/11 when it was co-opted. It’s sad, but I hesitate to fly the flag for fear of being pegged as a conservative.

    • Snowflake says:

      Agree! It’s ridiculous.

  11. Dani says:

    Over reaction and censorship. If you are against what that flag stands for, very simply, do not purchase the shoes. America’s history is America’s history and censoring it will cause more damage. I don’t think that Nike release the shoes with that flag to incite hate, or even to remind everyone of a time where slavery and segregation existed. To me, it seems like it was in celebration of America, of Betsy creating the flag, of what it meant at the time, for the country. He should put his efforts in to things that really make a difference – not a pair of sneakers that probably won’t even sell that well because they’re ugly as it is.

    • Pineapple says:

      Dani, I would argue he has earned the right to put his effort wherever he decides to. I am a Canadian but I was floored by his action. The world is changed for the better by people like Colin Kapernick. And you can’t ignore any symbol used by the far right. I don’t think that is the solution. I think you need to speak out when those symbols are placed on consumer goods. It is important.

    • Patty says:

      Hmm. Maybe all Americans should put their energy toward making sure that this country lives up to the ideas enshrined in The Constitution and not just you know obsessing over a flag. Just like everyone on this board, Kap, expressed his decision. At the end of the day Nike made the decision to pull the sneakers for whatever reason. Also, while I recognize that the flag used in the shoes is an older version of the flag – it amazes me how quickly people forget that flag is never supposed to be used in this fashion to begin. Or turned into bikinis, swimsuits, coozy’s, napkins, paper plates, etc.

    • Jaded says:

      The American flag in whatever rendition has become a lightening rod for the worst of American nationalism. It has been co-opted by the radical right to represent what is white, anti-immigration and fascist. Then you have a nutbar like Ali Alexander insisting that Kamala Harris isn’t really black American (even though she was born in Oakland) because her father was from Jamaica and her mother from India. This virulent nationalism is now creeping into the African-American community and its roots are fervent, jingoistic worship of the flag. Like ‘Pineapple’ above, I too am Canadian and many Americans have told me to stay the f*ck out of commenting on American politics and social issues, but this is becoming a global problem that Trump and his base have unleashed on the world. It’s like the American flag is morphing into the German swastika. Symbolism is a very powerful tool and consumerism is the way in which these symbols can come to represent something other than what the original intention was.

      • HK9 says:

        As a Canadian (from another fellow Canadian), Americans tell you to stay out of it because you probably know more than they do.

      • Kitten says:

        Yeah Americans only say that when they don’t agree with your opinion. If you were saying “I’m a Canadian and Trump is amazing!!” they’d be telling you how smart you are.

        And I’m not surprised that Trump-supporters and other dumb Americans think that Trump’s presidency only affects us. They’re really THAT insular.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      “Over reaction and censorship. If you are against what that flag stands for, very simply, do not purchase the shoes. America’s history is America’s history and censoring it will cause more damage.”

      American history is not being “censored” in any way, shape or form. you can still read about the flag referred to as the “Betsy Ross” flag in most history books and, you know…on interwebz if you don’t do print. It’s also housed in plenty of museums, too. It’s not even censorship of Nike, because THEY decided to pull the shoe. PS, google “flag code” and read what it says about the image of the flag and how it is and, more importantly, ISN’T supposed to be used. you stance is akin to those who think that taking down statues and monuments of confederate soldiers/officers “erases” history.

      “I don’t think that Nike release the shoes with that flag to incite hate, or even to remind everyone of a time where slavery and segregation existed. To me, it seems like it was in celebration of America, of Betsy creating the flag, of what it meant at the time, for the country.”

      of course that’s what it was. however, after some advice from one of their endorsers, who knows A LOT about race relations in America right now, they thought about what they were putting out and decided it sent the wrong message.

      “He should put his efforts in to things that really make a difference – not a pair of sneakers that probably won’t even sell that well because they’re ugly as it is.”

      please google “Colin Kaepernick” and see what “things that really make a difference” he’s putting his efforts into. you just might learn something.

  12. Coji says:

    I wasn’t aware of its use by white supremacists or that people found it offensive. When I was in school Betsy Ross was the only woman named when we learned about the Revolutionary War. I’ve always favored the 13 star flag because of Betsy Ross and my feeling that it represented the desire for freedom. The only flag I own is a 13 star. I suppose throwing it in the trash is considered bad? I don’t want to Goodwill it so someone else can display an offensive flag.

    • Justme says:

      Keep displaying the flag of our country and don’t let people’s appropriation of it for any reason deter you. You know why you are flying it and that is all that is important. I never heard about the white supremacist stuff connected to it and I’ll bet you most of your neighbors haven’t either.
      Here’s a take on the subject I like this line from a professor at the U. Of Memphis ““Since patriot groups, militias, etc., tend to be firmly linked to ’100% (white) Americanism,′ the rumor has now taken root that the Ross flag constitutes another such symbol (like the Confederate flag),” said University of Memphis’s Professor Marler.

      “Well, if it wasn’t before, it sure will be now, and it’s a shame to concede it to them.”

  13. Milkweed says:

    I agree with Colin. Nike designers can do better.

  14. Kitten says:

    Wish we had up-votes around here or a like button. So many great replies here.
    Good on Kaep and Nike did the right thing here.

  15. Myra says:

    Government should stay out of private business…Nike understands it’s customers. When I wear Nike gear I’m not trying to be patriotic or make a statement. I just want to look cute and comfortable for my workout session.

  16. Betsy says:

    I’m disappointed that yet another nice enough symbol has been stolen by crazy right wingers. ☹️