Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel on Tuesday condemned Nike’s decision to drop a shoe that features what many historians believe to be the first official version of the Amercan flag, designed by Betsy Ross, the wife of the first US president, according to The Hill.
“If we’re in a political environment where the American flag has become controversial to Americans, I think we've got a problem," he told reporters. "I hope Nike either releases these shoes or some other shoe maker picks up the flag, puts it on a pair of shoes and starts selling it. I’ll make the first order.”
Last week, the sports clothing maker caught flak for withdrawing the shoe model featuring what many consider the first American flag, designed ahead of 4th July, after the former NFL star - now a civil rights activist - Colin Kaepernick, who is the official branding representative of the company, noted that the flag is associated with the era of slavery.
Kaepernick in 2016, became the first major US sports pro to kneel during the performance of the Amercan national anthem, in protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the US. The National Football League (NFL) was blasted by US President Donald Trump for allowing the protest action, describing the move as “total disrespect for our great country.”
Nike defended its decision to pull the flag-decorated shoes by downplaying the issue as a “regular” occasion.
"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," the company said in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday.
McConnell’s call for US shoemakers to “pick up the flag and put it on a pair of shoes,” is in contradiction of the US Flag Code – the set of rules determining how the US flag should and should not be displayed.
The Code includes the admonition that “no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.”
Another paragraph says that “the flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered […], printed or otherwise impressed on […] anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”
Earlier this year, Nike bore the brunt of an online petition calling for the removal of its Air Max shoes, after some US Muslims suggested that the logo vaguely resembles the name of the preeminent Muslim deity written in Arabic.