Nike's decision to pull the 'Betsy Ross' flag shoe was a bad one

Jeff Neal

Nike made a gutsy move by embracing exiled NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick with a new ad campaign last year.

It was a nod to Nike's diverse customer base.

Kaepernick is a symbol of courage to many African-Americans. He kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police violence against minorities.

Of course, more conservative Nike customers were furious -- because there is a large segment of the American population who believe Kaepernick is merely being disrespectful.

That debate rages on.

I, for one, certainly applauded Nike's decision to feature the ex-quarterback. While I don't necessarily agree with Kaepernick's method of protest, his right to do so is unquestionably American. And that makes him a hero to many.

But while the company's decision to stand behind Kaepernick -- despite the controversy -- was courageous, its decision this week to pull a shoe line featuring the "Betsy Ross" flag is anything but gutsy. It's anything but courageous.

As a matter of fact, it's a slap in the face to many Americans who feel the original "Betsy Ross" flag is the ultimate symbol of our nation's birth.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nike pulled the shoe after Kaepernick told company representatives it shouldn't use that version of the flag, as he and others consider it an offensive symbol due to its connection to a time when slavery was legal.

Many Americans will agree. And I understand. Slavery is undoubtedly one of the true blights on our nation's history.

But should every symbol that harkens back to that time be cast in a negative light?

I don't see how any version of the American flag could be "offensive" to any American citizen.

To me, the "Betsy Ross" flag symbolizes our founding fathers overcoming incredible odds to break from the tyranny of England and become a young nation -- a nation that would become the greatest in the world.

And, yes, a nation that fought a war with the abolition of slavery at its core. A nation that produced a history-changing Civil Rights movement five decades ago. A nation that still strives to conquer prejudice.

While many Nike customers might agree that anything associated with the era in which slavery was legal should be jettisoned from our consciousness, there are many who feel differently about this symbol of freedom -- freedom for all of us.

Nike made a bad call.

On this Fourth of July, it doesn't matter if you're a conservative, a liberal or somewhere in-between -- this holiday is about all of us, and what we represent as a whole.

Nike seemed to forget the majority of its American customers are proud of that red, white and blue flag -- and on Independence Day, that includes the version our forefathers displayed with pride.

JEFF NEAL is the editor of the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.