- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Nike again defended its decision to scrap a shoe that featured the original version of the American flag, but did not address Colin Kaepernick’s involvement in the matter.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Kaepernick objected to the design of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike USA sneakers because he and others consider the flag an offensive symbol of a slave society. The shoe company went as far to recall pairs that were already shipped out to retailers, per the Journal.

On Tuesday, Nike released its second statement about the issue. 

“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services,” Nike said in a statement. “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 including the US Olympic team and US Soccer teams. 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.”

The statement does not address how involved Kaepernick was in the company’s decision. The Wall Street Journal also reported Tuesday that some Nike officials were “surprised” at the quarterback’s involvement.

Nike’s decision sparked a national debate about the topic, with some quick to criticize the company and Kaepernick. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he was withdrawing financial incentives from the state to the company — tweeting he was “embarrassed” for Nike.

Kaepernick’s relationship with Nike has been heavily scrutinized before. Last September, Kaepernick became the face of a campaign for the 30th anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan. President Trump tweeted “What was Nike thinking?” in response to the move.

Others strongly supported Kaepernick and the company. Nike CEO Mark Parker said on a conference call the company’s earlier commercial campaign featuring Kaepernick generated “a real uptick in traffic and engagement, both socially and commercially.”

In February, the company released a special-edition Kaepernick jersey that sold out in less than 24 hours.

The Air Max 1s, which featured 13 stars on each heel and were Betty Ross-inspired, was an updated reissue on a shoe that was released 15 years earlier featuring the modern American flag. It was intended for a limited distribution. 

In its initial statement, Nike said it shelved the product because the shoe featured an “old version of the American flag.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Nike did not send a version of the shoe to Kaepernick to approve and did not plan on the quarterback being part of the shoe’s release. Athletes typically only have a say in shoes bearing their name, per the Journal.

Kaepernick has been out of the NFL since 2017. Known best for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, Kaepernick settled his collusion grievance against the league in February.

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