Despite Nike’s efforts to halt sales of a July 4 sneaker bearing an early version of the American flag, a small number were still making it into public consumption via the resale market, where they were selling for thousands on the largest sneaker resale platform, StockX.com.
But now StockX has halted sales of the shoes, saying that selling them doesn’t align with the company’s values.
The shoes, called the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July, have landed Nike in controversy since the Wall Street Journal first reported that the company abruptly told retailers to return their orders. The Journal reports the decision came after activist and Nike endorser Colin Kaepernick expressed concern over the design, which features the so-called Betsy Ross flag, with its well-known ring of 13 stars, on the back. According to the Journal, he and others feel the flag represents an era when slavery was still legal and accepted.
Nike had already produced and shipped the sneakers before deciding to cancel their sale, and pairs had started to leak onto StockX last week. To date, at least 70 pairs have sold on the site, with several purchases occurring since the Journal’s report. The selling prices had been steadily increasing. The most recent purchase was $2,500 for a men’s size 13. Many sizes sold out, and a few were still for sale until Scott Cutler, StockX’s new CEO, announced the halt.
In a statement, Nike said it routinely makes business decisions to withdraw products or 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,” it noted.
Nike had previously confirmed that it had chosen not to release the shoe because it featured an old version of the American flag. That flag was introduced in 1777, at a time when black people could be legally enslaved, many indigenous people were being forced from their lands, and women and poor whites were marginalized in the newly created nation. While it’s widely known as the Betsy Ross flag, there’s no solid evidence Ross created the flag.
Since the recall of the shoes came to light, a backlash against Nike has ensued, mostly—though not solely—from the political right in the US, as people accuse the company of bowing to excessive political correctness and being anti-American. “Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism,” Doug Ducey, governor of Arizona, tweeted. Texas senator Ted Cruz suggested a boycott of the company.
In the same series of tweets, Ducey announced that he had ordered the state’s commerce authority to withdraw all financial incentives the state had planned to offer Nike to build a new factory there. While Nike does most of its manufacturing overseas, it had recently revealed that it would construct a new US facility to manufacture its Air platform in the US. Goodyear, Arizona, is where the facility appeared to be headed. It’s not clear what other authority Ducey might have over the deal, though, since it is between Nike and the city, not the state.
In its statement, Nike did not clarify the status of its plans for Goodyear. “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,” it said. The company emphasized that it is “proud of its American heritage.”
In 2016, the flag was at the center of debate in Michigan after a school superintendent apologized for its appearance next to a pro-Trump banner at a football game, over concerns that white supremacist and nationalist groups had co-opted it as a symbolic rejection of the country’s increasing diversity. The flag is also widely used elsewhere, leaving it up for debate as to how the general public should treat it.
This story and its headline have been updated to reflect that StockX has halted sales of the shoe on its site. The story has also been updated with comment from Nike.