As the United States has just come off its July 4 celebration, it seemed but too apropos to commentate on one of the hot topics of the sneaker world right now ( no it is not the lawsuits facing both Nike and Adidas), Nike cancelling the release of the “USA” Air Max 1 at the behest of one Mr. Colin Kaepernick.
For those of you who may have been habitating beneath escarpment, Nike was set to release an updated version of their “USA” Air Max 1. It looked like this:
The point of contention was the flag on the rear of the shoe, which is colloquially known as the “Betsy Ross” flag.
Apparently Kaepernick expressed his concerns to Nike over their use of the flag ,saying that it had been co-opted by racist groups. There is some truth to this as last year KKK recruiting fliers in upstate New York used both the confederate flag and the one in question. An 2013 investigation in my hometown newspaper, the Albany Herald in Albany, Georgia did find that the 13-star flag and/or the confederate flag were required use at some Klan chapter’s ritualistic gatherings.
Last Tuesday, Nike spokeswoman Sandra Carreon-John said in a statement that the company made the decision to “Halt distribution” of the sneaker “based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract and from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”
Fake outrage wrapped in the American flag proceeded forth and caused Arizona to withdraw a $1million grant to Nike, as the athletic company announced that it was going to open a $184 million facility in Goodyear, however the City of Goodyear released a statement last Tuesday saying the financial incentives still stood, as New Mexico was trying to take advantage of the situation and get Nike to bring their operation to their state.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey railed took Nike to task in a series of tweets, letting the world know that “Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history.”
I am not that upset about the shoes being pulled. I’m not even remotely surprised this transpired. This situation is not even uncharted waters for Nike. All one has to do is take a look back at approximately the past twenty years and you will see that Nike’s history is peppered with instances of these types of faux pas ( I am being extremely generous by putting it in those terms). Here are just a few of their misteps:
- The original Air Bakin’s “Air” on the back resembled “Allah” and had to be altered.
- A Dunk SB Low was found to be offensive to the Irish
- The insoles on the “Rising Sun” Air Jordan 12 was offensive to the Japanese community. Subsequent runs of the shoe featured a blank insole
- The AIRMAX logo on the Air Max 720 resembled “Allah” in Arabic and there were calls for the shoe to be pulled.
Just In May of 2019, Nike was forced to cancel the release of an Air Force 1 that was supposed to commemorate Puerto Rico after an indigenous group in Panama called out one of its traditional designs being used on the shoe.
When I first saw the shoe and when I saw the flag on the back, it made me furl my brow in a quizzical manner. If I can pick up on that from my first time seeing the sneaker, how does no one in that room catch it beforehand? What this tells me is that they have the wrong people in the room and by that I mean culturally aware black people with knowledge of self. This sentiment also applies to many of the brand’s Black History Month (BHM) , which are typically phoned in to the point of being insulting. If this the type of mindsets that permeates the people at the drafting tables and in the design boardroom, then these types of situations will continue to rear their ugly heads and it will only get worse with each subsequent occurrence.