U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, weighed in on the controversy surrounding Nike’s decision to pull a Fourth of July themed shoe depicting the Betsy Ross flag.
At a event celebrating hemp in Lexington, McConnell said he hoped Nike would reverse its decision to pull the shoes, which were embroidered with the Betsy Ross flag on the back. Nike made the decision after it drew criticism from former NFL star Colin Kaepernick for celebrating a time when slavery was commonplace, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“If we’re in a political environment where the American flag has become controversial to Americans, I think we’ve got a problem,” McConnell said. “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.”
Nike’s decision to pull the shoes quickly garnered backlash, especially among those in the Republican Party. Earlier Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he was pulling state financial incentives from a proposed new Nike factory in Goodyear, Arizona, saying the company was not welcome, according to The Arizona Republic.
The historic flag, now called the Betsy Ross flag, features thirteen stars in a circle representing the original thirteen colonies. Early responses to the shoes, called the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July, were critical because it was the flag used in early American history when slavery was legal. Others said the flag has been co-opted and used as a symbol for white nationalists.