Nike first shocked investors by aligning itself with Colin Kaepernick, a blacklisted former NFL quarterback who garnered attention and criticism for kneeling during the national anthem. Earlier this week, Nike shocked investors once again by introducing then pulling a controversial new shoe designed by Colin Kaepernick among deafening concerns from retailers that the shoe would spell nothing but trouble.
In a twist of fate that likely escaped Colin Kaepernick and Nike executives, the flag depicted on the back on Colin’s new sneaker is the Betsy Ross flag. The flag itself doesn’t appear terribly controversial at first blush. The controversy comes when the image on this particular flag, which features the stars and stripes plus a circular arrangement of 13 stars (representing the number of colonies at the time of the flag’s creation), has been used by the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalists like Identity Evropa. Both of these groups use this particular 13-star flag to affectionately reach back to a time in which slavery was still the law of the land.
A laconic statement by Nike executives simply reads, “Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American Flag.” That’s certainly an understatement. Nike later said that pulling the now-infamous shoe was based on cultural-sensitivity concerns and the understandable worry that the shoe would detract from a national holiday. Nonetheless, following these statements, Republican Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, felt that he needed to weight in.
Nike has a shoe plant in Goodyear, Arizona, and Governor Ducey has promised to order the Arizona Commerce Authority to half all state incentives to that particular Nike plant. The legal complication is that the Arizona Commerce Authority is a public-private economic development agency. The fact that a public official like governor Ducey is impacting the economic fortunes of a private company like Nike is certainly problematic when viewed through the correct legal prism. Governor Ducey summed up what he thought was a popular sentiment when he said, “Words cannot express my disappointment.”
The move by Governor Ducey is actually rather topical since the Arizona Commerce Authority’s deal with that particular Nike factory in Goodyear, Arizona was only announced earlier this week on Monday. Brushing aside concerns about a public official meddling in a private business’s affairs, Governor Ducey said, “Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike.”