Nike pulls 'Betsy Ross' flag sneakers after reported complaints from Colin Kaepernick

Nike dropped it "based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend."

July 2, 2019, 4:25 PM

Nike has pulled a new sneaker off shelves ahead of the July 4th holiday amidst continuing controversy with the personality currently fronting its "Just Do It" campaign.

The sportswear giant said it would not ship its Air Max 1 USA, which features a Colonial design called the Betsy Ross flag, after reported complaints from Colin Kaepernick about the flag's past association with slavery, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reported that Kaepernick reached out to company officials after images of the shoe were posted online to say he felt the flag was "an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery."

"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," a company spokeswoman said in a statement to ABC News.

"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 continued.

In an earlier statement, the company said it had opted not to release the shoe because "it featured an old version of the American flag."

Representatives for Kaepernick did not respond to several requests for comment.

Retail experts said any outrage over the canceled shoes was unlikely to hurt the retail giant.

"For better or worse Nike is very good at staying in the news," Nomura Instinet's Simeon Siegel told ABC News. "Thus far, controversy has not hurt their sales."

"Nike sells $40 billion of things a year. They are hitting every audience," Siegel said, pointing out that the Betsy Ross shoes are selling at a premium on the resale market.

By late afternoon, destination sneaker resale site StockX said it had sold the Betsy Ross flagged shoe for $2,500.

"Plenty of people would argue the resale market gives is what gives Nike the cachet," Siegel said.