GOP senators rail against Nike for pulling 'Betsy Ross flag' sneaker after Kaepernick speaks out

GOP Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape O'Rourke says he will not 'in any scenario' run for Senate MORE (Texas) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyGovernment regulation of social media would kill the internet — and free speech Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech Twitter unlocks McConnell's campaign account after GOP boycott MORE (Mo.) lashed out against Nike after the company reportedly scrapped its plans to release a "Betsy Ross flag" sneaker following pushback from those who considered the design offensive.

"It’s a good thing @Nike only wants to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag," Cruz said on Twitter on Monday.

Hawley joined the criticism on Tuesday, asking the company, “What planet are you on?”

ADVERTISEMENT
 

The comments from the senators came after The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Nike canceled the release of a shoe featuring the Revolutionary War-era flag design. 

The organization had reportedly planned to release the Air Max 1 USA featuring the new design this week.

But it called off those plans after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly voiced issues with the design, the Journal reported. Kaepernick, who is sponsored by Nike, said that the early American flag was an offensive symbol connected to an era of slavery, according to the newspaper. 

The Journal also noted that Nike asked retailers to return the product without explanation after shipping it out.

“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services. NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday," Nike said in a statement to The Hill.  

Nike also touted itself as "a company proud of its American heritage," while highlighting its "continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the US Olympic team and US Soccer teams" and its employment of 35,000 people in the United States.

The company did not mention whether Kaepernick had been a factor behind its decision to pull the sneakers.

In addition to the two senators, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) quickly denounced Nike's move, saying that the company was bowing "to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism."

Ducey also announced Tuesday that he would ask the state's chamber of commerce to pull financial incentives for Nike. 

"Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike," Ducey said.

Kaepernick became the first NFL player in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

He was the face of a Nike "Just Do It" ad campaign that was released last September.

-- Updated at 4:25 p.m.