Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling on Nike to reverse its decision to pull its Independence Day-themed shoes, pledging that if they do, he will make the first purchase.
The Air Max 1 USA featured prominent red, white and blue colors and depicted an American flag with 13 stars, commonly known as the “Betsy Ross flag,” on its heels.
“If we’re in a political environment where the American flag has become controversial to Americans, I think we’ve got a problem,” McConnell told reporters at an event in Lexington, Kentucky, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. “I hope Nike either releases these shoes or some other shoe maker picks up the flag, puts it on a pair of shoes and starts selling it. I’ll make the first order.”
Nike canceled production after Colin Kaepernick, a Nike endorser and former NFL quarterback, told company officials that he and others found the symbol offensive as it connected to an era of slavery in America. The flag, which features 13 stars referring to the 13 original colonies, was flown during a period of American history entrenched in the practice of slavery.
Nike made Kaepernick the face of its “Just Do It” campaign in 2018, after he was widely criticized over his protest of police brutality against black Americans during the 2016-2017 NFL season, during which he kneeled during the national anthem. Kapernick was a free agent during the 2017-2018 season.
Others have weighed in on Nike’s decision to pull the Independence Day-themed shoes.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) expressed his outrage in a series of tweets, and pulled financial incentives for Nike to build a new manufacturing plant in the state.
“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,” he said.
Laura Ingraham, a Fox News show host, called Nike’s decision “pathetic,” adding that neither she nor her family would ever purchase the company’s shoes again.
MSNBC “Morning Joe” anchor Joe Scarborough denounced Nike on Twitter.
“PC madness is accelerating just in time for 2020,” he said. “Trump feeds on your reflexive Wokeness.”
But in an interview with CBSN, Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro praised the shoe company’s decision.
“I was glad to see that. And my hope is that they didn’t just do it to do it. They understand the significance there. And look, there are a lot of things in our history that are still very painful,” he said. “The Confederate Flag that still flies in some places, and is used as a symbol. And I believe we need to move towards an inclusive America that understands that pain.”