Nike pulled the Air Max 1 USA shoe, which included a Revolutionary-era U.S. flag with 13 white stars in a circle on the heel. Kaepernick reached out to Nike after learning they planned to release the sneaker to explain that the flag recalls an era when black people were enslaved and that it has been appropriated by white nationalist groups, a person familiar with the conversation told The Associated Press.
Nike decided to recall the shoe after it had been already sent to retailers to go on sale this week for the July Fourth holiday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The decision caused an instant backlash among conservatives who accused Nike of denigrating U.S. history, with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey tweeting that he is asking the state’s Commerce Authority to withdraw financial incentives promised to Nike to build a plant in the state.
Others expressed surprise that the symbol known as the “Betsy Ross” flag, so named after the beloved Philadelphia woman credited with designing it, could be considered offensive. Although some extremist groups appear to have appropriated the flag, it is not widely viewed as a symbol of hate, and is used in museums that focus on 18th century U.S. history.