Nike We Hardly Knew Ya’

Recently, Nike made a bizarre decision, for allegedly, a bizarre reason, regarding a new sneaker design, scheduled to be released for sale around the country in conjunction with the July 4th Independence Day observance.  The sneaker featured the so-called Betsy Ross American flag on the rear of each pair. The flag design, representing the original 13 colonies, is said to derive from the 1770’s.  Then, just prior to the holiday, without warning, Nike ordered its retailers to send back all of the special sneakers, because the release of this patriotic shoe had been cancelled.

Why you may ask was the release cancelled, although you already know, from the immediate national media coverage.  It seems that Nike’s contracted spokesperson, Mr. Kaepernick, caught wind of the design and persuaded Nike to cancel its plans.   Typically, paid spokespersons for national brands, have no veto power over a company’s product or service decisions.  They are paid to simply appear visually, read from a prepared script, get a check, and go home.  No product or service opinion sought or permitted.  Except, unexpectedly, this time.  And Special K’s objection?   He asserts that the 13 original colonies American flag image “is offensive and tied to slavery.”  Similar time period, yes.  Tied to slavery, of course not.

OK, so let’s see here.  The Civil War brought the beginning of the end for the enterprise of slavery in America (150+ years ago), and, comparatively more recently, Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race (and other criteria), along with ending any segregation in schools, etc. (55-years ago).  While slavery is still practiced in some other countries, it hasn’t existed in America for an exceptionally long time.  So why dredge it up to discredit one of our original flags (perhaps the original stars & stripes)?  Kaepernick’s self-identified importance, and his undesired absence from the media spotlight for many months, might be a start.  And, then, the ever-popular continuing theme of manufactured social-injustice, in an era where just about everything is either unjust and/or, of course, racist, the claims of the latter providing a steady livelihood for some.

If we’re actually going to tie rejection of the 13-star-&-stripe flag to slavery, then let’s stop all commerce and diplomatic relations with England, the then-dominant nation that kept our fledging country in economic bondage, until brave colonial soldiers freed us from their shackles.  And let’s also stop all relations with Canada for siding with England and opposing our move for independence.  Makes as much sense as KO-ing an innocent colonial flag, because slavery happened to be in effect at that time, here and elsewhere in the then-growing and colonizing world. That flag reflected colonial patriotism, not the celebration of slavery.  As did America’s succeeding flags of the time.

Nike’s public statement regarding its decision to pull the shoe in question from circulation was as follows: “Nike is proud of its American heritage,” with its decision “based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”  Detract from the nation’s holiday celebrations?  Unlikely!  Beach, beer, and cook-outs with family rarely live or die based on seeming patriotic actions by manufacturers.  And offend?  Yes, those offended were not those still living, mentally, in colonial times, but rather the vast majority of patriotic Americans who would’ve enjoyed wearing those special shoes.

Sneaker-heads (youth-to-34, per Nike) would have purchased those 13-colony athletic shoes by the tens-of-thousands, because they were cool looking, and because today’s younger wearers wouldn’t have had the slightest idea about the alleged tie-in to the era of American slavery, supposedly represented by Betsy’s flag.  Were it not, however, for a social justice warrior’s ability to invent an issue, then cry foul, woo the media once again (keeping his publicity-dream alive), and actually stop the distribution of a pretty neat looking sneaker.

Had Nike stood by its decision to release the shoe at the risk of his contract with the company, Kaepernick might well have gone public with his manufactured grievance to regain the spotlight and the apparent felt-need to punish his current/former employer, for their, unbeknownst to them, historic transgression.   The threat of intimidation by the justice warriors, thus, continues to reign supreme.  And, for the most part, and in too many situations, it is, in itself, an injustice.

Yes, slavery in America existed, a century and a half ago.  So did hangings, and firing squads, and hard, non-mechanized farm labor, and too-often deplorable living conditions for the nation’s poorer citizens, of all colors.  Nobody’s proud of various elements of our past history, but we move on.  Because Americans also do have so much good to celebrate and revere, thanks to the privilege given to us of living here, in the most exceptional nation the world has ever known.


(Flag derivation,, Khadeeja Safdar/Andrew Beaton, 7-2-19;  Ross flag offensive,, Lauren Thomas/Lauren Hirsch, 7-2-19).