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Nike reportedly pulls "Betsy Ross flag" shoes over concerns from Colin Kaepernick

Nike pulls flag sneaker
Nike pulls "Betsy Ross flag" sneakers amid controversy 01:58

Nike has walked back its decision to release a red, white and blue version of its Air Max 1 sneakers ahead of the July 4 holiday. According to The Wall Street Journal, that choice was made following concerns raised by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is the face of Nike's "Just Do It" 30th anniversary campaign.

In a statement to CBS News on Monday night, Nike 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 shoe's design included a depiction of the "Betsy Ross flag," which features 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 stars to represent the original U.S. colonies.

On Tuesday, Nike said in an updated statement to CBS News, "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."

Sources told WSJ that Kaepernick reached out to Nike after photos emerged of the shoes, saying the design could be seen as offensive due to its association with an era of slavery. The flag first emerged in 1792 at a time when lawmakers advocated for the expansion of slavery and formally declared that those born into slavery were slaves for life.

After shipping the shoes to retailers, Nike asked for them to be returned without providing a reason, sources told WSJ. The shoes are not available on Nike's websites or mobile apps but Air Max 1 USA versions featuring the flag are still available on resale site StockX.

CBS News reached out to Kaepernick for further comment and is awaiting a response. Kaepernick is a former quarterback who played for the San Francisco 49ers until the end of the 2016 season. During that season, he sat and then knelt during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid settled a lawsuit alleging that the NFL had colluded to keep him off the field for their political activism in February for less than $10 million.

Nike has already received fierce blowback from its decision to pull the Betsy Ross American flag sneakers. On Tuesday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said he's rescinding financial incentives recently offered to Nike to build a $185 million plant and bring 500 jobs to the state.

In a statement to CBS News on Tuesday, Nike said the company is "proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the US Olympic team and US Soccer teams. We already employ 35,000 people in the U.S. and remain committed to creating jobs in the U.S., including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing center which will create 500 new jobs."

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