Kaepernick became a polarizing figure in sports after he decided not to stand for the national anthem during a 2016 NFL preseason football game, in a protest against racial injustice. His actions have been widely defended as an exercise of his freedom of speech.
Kaepernick reportedly 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 Air Max 1 USA shoes were set to go on sale this week for $140.
The 31-year-old quarterback, who is also a Nike endorser, said the old American flag emblazoned on the sneakers’ heel was offensive because of its links to an era of slavery, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Nike had already shipped the shoes to retailers when it asked for them to be returned without explanation, according to the paper.
‘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 spokeswoman told the outlet.
WHY BETSY ROSS FLAG IS ANTI-DIVERSITY SYMBOL
The Betsy Ross flag has long been acknowledged as the first to use the stripes, stars, and the colors red, white, and blue which have now come to symbolize the United States. The flag was made in 1776 at the request of George Washington, among others.
Ross made the flag with 13 stars in a circle to represent each of the 13 colonies, setting them in blue on a red-and-white striped field.
The flag was officially used for the first time in 1792, and now versions of it fly at select sites and hang in museums across the country.
It was created and later adopted at a time when slavery still ran rampant in the colonies, and because of this it has been adopted by white nationalists and other anti-diversity groups.
The Patriot Movement uses the flag as a symbol of their movement, which since the 1950s has promoted white supremacy and antisemitism.
However, the WSJ reported that some of the shoes made it onto the market — with an online retailer selling a pair for up to $2,000.
Kaepernick complained to the company after seeing images of the design online.
The NFL-player-turned-activist reportedly declined to comment.
The Betsy Ross flag, which features 13 white stars in a circle representing the 13 original U.S. colonies, was created during the American Revolution.
It was a time when lawmakers advocated for the expansion of slavery and declared that those born into slavery were slaves for life.
The flag has more recently been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to the country’s increasing diversity.
Twitter users had mixed reactions to the news of the recall.
‘The Betsy Ross flag has been turned into a symbol of white nationalism and domestic extremism.
Conservatives will whine, but Colin Kaepernick was right to speak out and Nike was right to pull the products,’ one person wrote.
Another Twitter user thanked Kaepernick for ‘shedding light on the fact that Betsy Ross’ flag is racist. I’m sitting here shaking now that I know that my history teachers left this vital piece of information from me.’
Others called Kaepernick ‘un-American’.
‘Nike just pulled a 4th of July themed shoe feat a Betsy Ross American Flag because complained saying it was “offensive”?!?!?! Can we just for ONE DAY Attempt to be Americans and be PROUD especially during the 4th of July! The day we became America?!,’ one person wrote.
Twitter users had mixed reactions to the news, with some tweeting their support for Nike and Kaepernick for scrapping the shoes
Others were furious at the decision and called the controversial former NFL-star ‘un-American’
‘I’m offended at how [Nike] support someone who doesn’t support their county,’ another person tweeted.
Kaepernick ignited a nationwide controversy in 2016 when he decided to protest inequality and racist police brutality by refusing to stand during the national anthem.
Since starting the demonstrations during the NFL preseason three years ago, Kaepernick has been joined by scores of other NFL players in the face of intense criticism, namely from President Donald Trump, who has referred to the protesters as ‘sons of b******’
The demonstrations were primarily a reaction to the deaths of African-American men at the hands of law enforcement.
The free agent quarterback last played in the NFL in 2016, going unsigned since the kneeling protest.
In February, he settled collusion grievances that alleged the league and its teams conspired to keep Kaepernick and his former teammate Eric Reid unsigned because of their political activism.
The settlement was for less than $10 million.
Last September, Nike introducing Kaepernick as the new face of its ‘Just Do It’ ad campaign.
A month later, the company released a long-sleeved black t-shirt with the controversial free agent quarterback’s name emblazoned in reflective lettering along the back, and the $50 item sold out within only a few hours.
The move to make the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback the face of its ad campaign generated a backlash among some consumers, who set fire to Nike shoes.
But others were vocal in their support for Nike – which is one of the NFL’s biggest partners.
Despite the initial backlash and a share drop, the company reportedly made around $6 billion from the move.