PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Sportswear giant Nike released a sneaker this week that was supposed to be a celebration of Independence Day but instead, it’s been a source of controversy.
The Air Max 1 USA shoe has on its heel an early version of the American flag bearing thirteen stars in a circle, known as the Betsy Ross flag, which flew over the Colonies in the 1700s when slavery was still commonplace.
Nike received numerous complaints from people who found the symbol to be offensive, including NFL star Colin Kaepernick, leading the company to pull the sneakers from stores.
Jim Vincent, president of the NAACP’s Providence chapter, said he thinks Nike did the right thing by scrapping the shoes, adding that the American flag—particularly that version of it—shouldn’t be used for commercial reasons.
“Now in terms of the Nike position, I think there’s ‘flag code,’ so to speak, where you don’t really use the flag for commercial purposes,” Vincent said Wednesday. “I think we already have Christmas and Easter way too commercialized. Where does it end?”
“I can see that there might be some people who don’t want to commercialize the Fourth of July, especially with a flag that was flown during slavery,” he continued.
Vincent said the flag does have a place in American history but it belongs in a museum, not on the back of a sneaker.
Vincent wouldn’t go so far as to call the colonial flag a racist symbol, but he did caution anyone who plans to fly it this Fourth of July, saying it may offend some people.