When did we become so star-spangled screwy?
Somewhere along the way, rights and rules got mixed up in politics and political correctness. The result has become a head-scratching confusion of ideology masking as principle. Our national conscience seems to have run amok.
In the case outlined below, everyone loses: The Constitution, capitalism, community. How does this feel like the American Dream?
This week, Nike has canceled plans to sell a limited-edition Air Max 1 in honor of the Fourth of July, the Wall Street Journal reported. Allegedly, former NFL athlete (and Nike spokesperson) Colin Kaepernick advised the company not to release it.
The sneaker was supposed to go on sale this week for $140, and Nike had already shipped it to retailers when it made its decision.
Kaepernick, who has been at the center of the NFL kneeling protests during the National Anthem, took issue with the sneaker’s design, which featured 13 white stars in a circle, referencing a Revolutionary War-era version of the American flag (commonly known as the Betsy Ross flag).
This early version of the flag, he argued, is pulled from the era of slavery and doesn’t warrant celebration. In fact, some maintain the Betsy Ross flag is today associated with white-supremacy symbolism.
The company did not give an explanation to retailers when asking that the shoes be returned, and some of them have made it out onto the second-hand market. In a statement sent to media outlets Tuesday, a Nike spokesperson elaborated: “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 is a company proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes(.)”
But then it got worse.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted Tuesday that the state would no longer offer Nike any financial incentives to build a new manufacturing plant in the state (which was supposedly also set to be announced this week). In a nine-tweet thread, Ducey wrote, “Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike.” The plant would reportedly have cost $184.5 million and employed 500 people, while the town of Goodyear had promised to waive about $1 million in permit fees as well as reimburse Nike $1 million for job creation.
“Nike is an iconic American brand and American company. This country, our system of government and free enterprise have allowed them to prosper and flourish,” Ducey continued. “Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. ... 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.”
Nike responded: “We already employ 35,000 people in the U.S. and remain committed to creating jobs in the U.S., including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing center which will create 500 new jobs.”
And then it got political.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz chimed in on Twitter: “I love America. I stand for the anthem, respect the flag & honor the men & women who fought to defend our Nation. I respect Free Speech & I’m exerting mine: until @Nike ends its contempt for those values, I WILL NO LONGER PURCHASE NIKE PRODUCTS.”
Media outlets note that it’s unclear how widespread the explicit use of the Betsy Ross flag as a symbol of white supremacy is. The Washington Post tied it to the resurgence of the Patriot movement in 2016 — citing its use by many of the new-wave white nationalist militias that arose in the wake of Barack Obama’s election in 2008.
So rather than educating the public about symbols and history (Betsy Ross is worth learning about, folks), we cower to the onslaught of guilt by association. We rewrite history, assign blame to objects like horcruxes, and then resort to uncivil character assassinations and hate speech around those who buy or celebrate them.
Given the climate of our battered nation, Nike probably made the best decision. But a reminder: Consumers are quick to outrage and quick to forget. The first time a hero gets caught on TV wearing Nikes, the tables will turn.
Overall, it does concern us: We hope nobody takes offense at apple pie at some point. Or fireworks. That would be hard on America.