Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging Nike to reverse its decision to cancel production of shoes featuring the Betsy Ross flag and has promised that if the company does so, he will make the first order.
McConnell weighed in on the controversy over the Fourth-of-July-themed shoes at an event celebrating hemp in Lexington, Ky.
“If we’re in a political environment where the American flag has become controversial to Americans, I think we’ve got a problem,” McConnell told reporters, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “I hope Nike either releases these shoes or some other shoe maker picks up the flag, puts it on a pair of shoes and starts selling it. I’ll make the first order.”
Nike decided to shelve plans for a shoe featuring the 13-star American flag associated with Ross after a complaint by Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who made national headlines for being the first to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Kaepernick, a Nike endorser, told the company that he and others are offended by the flag because it dates to the late 18th century, a period of widespread slavery in the United States, the Journal reported.
Kaepernick was the centerpiece of a major ad campaign by the company last fall pegged to the 30th anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan.
Some conservatives, Fox News hosts and other Republican officials, including Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Josh Hawley (Mo.), have lashed out at the company, calling for a boycott and accusing it of being “anti-American.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said he has ordered state authorities to revoke a modest incentive package it offered Nike to open a factory near Phoenix.
He said he did so because Nike “bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism.”
The shoes featured a red-white-and-blue colorway with Nike’s swoosh logo on the sides. The heels of the shoes were decorated with the flag, known for its circular arrangement of 13 stars, representing the 13 original colonies of the United States.
Des Bieler and Eli Rosenberg contributed to this report.