Nike canceled 'Betsy Ross flag' sneaker out of fears it could 'unintentionally offend' customers

Nike on Tuesday said it canceled the planned launch of its “Betsy Ross flag” sneakers out of concerns that the design could upset some customers, hours after a report that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick had raised concerns about the shoe.

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“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,” the company said in a statement.

The sneaker, which featured 13-star American flag designed by Betsy Ross during the Revolutionary War, was set to hit stores this week ahead of the Fourth of July. However, company executives opted to withdraw the release after Kaepernick, a prominent social activist, said the design could be deemed offensive because it stemmed from an era in which slavery was legal in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported.

While the sneakers had a retail value of $120, leaked pairs were selling for as much as $3,000 on resale site StockX as of Tuesday afternoon. As prices surged, StockX CEO Scott Cutler said the site would block further sales of the sneaker, which he said did not align with company values.

Nike’s decision to pull the sneaker release led Ariz. Gov. Doug Ducey with withdraw financial incentives for planned manufacturing plant in the state. The plant is expected to add more than 500 new jobs to the state’s economy, according to estimates.

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Nike signaled that it planned to move forward with a new manufacturing plant but did not specify whether it would be in Goodyear, Arizona -- despite Ducey’s decision.

“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,” the company added. “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.”