Scoot: Another controversy swirls around Nike!

July 02, 2019 - 6:48 pm

Another controversy swirls around NIKE!Nike was set to release a new sneaker featuring the old Betsy Ross version of the American flag on the heel, but the shoe giant suddenly stopped the release and asked the retail stores that had received the shoe to return them to Nike.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick called Nike and explained that the 18th century version of the flag is offensive to him and others because it reflects America’s era of slavery.

For the record, I understood why the Confederate-era monuments were taken down in New Orleans. I understood why the Confederate flag has been removed from city and state buildings and property across the country. I have spent countless hours on my radio talk show talking about the reality of racism and how the past is not that far behind us. It was this week, on July 2, 1964 specifically, that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. That marked a major step forward toward equality in America, and the Baby Boomer generation witnessed that firsthand.

It is with confidence in my position on racism that I say the controversy over the Betsy Ross sneaker seems more like a calculated controversy than it does a controversy that simply erupted organically. And the fact that this happened during the week of July 4th stirs my suspicion.

The Betsy Ross American flag did not represent a racist and segregated America. True, America was racist and segregated in the 18th century when the flag was conceived; but it was not, by design, created as a symbol of racism. The Confederate flag was more directly symbolic of segregation.

The Betsy Ross version of the flag – the flag with stripes and a circle of 13 stars representing the original colonies against the blue background – was the American flag that represented a nation that became divided over the issue of slavery. That was the flag that represented the white Americans who fought for total equality. There was a large group of Americans whowent to war over the abolition of slavery.

To say that the 18th century American flag is somehow linked to slavery sets a precedent that every America symbol or tradition are innately racist simply because they existed at the time of slavery.

Consider that the controversy sparked by Colin Kaepernick when he kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL game was really about the unfair treatment many black suspects endure at the hands of white police officers. His protest was associated with the flag because of the anthem, but Kaepernick’s cause was not specifically about slavery or racism.

For all those who say they will “never buy NIKE” again, there are many who support Nike's relationship with Kaepernick and his crusade to bring attention to inequality. Most successful companies do not try to satisfy everyone – they strive to satisfy their base consumers and motivate them to buy their products.

When I consider all of the elements that make up this latest controversy, I am drawn to the conclusion that Nike created a calculated controversy during the week of the 4th of July to attract free publicity. And it worked.

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