Arizona governor to cancel Nike's $2m incentives, calls withdrawal of Betsy Ross flag sneakers after Kaepernick complaint a 'shameful retreat'
The shoes, created to commemorate US independence day, was flagged as offensive by NFL star Colin Kaepernick as 'it represented' the old links to slavery
Shortly after Nike pulled its July 4 Betsy Ross flag-themed sneakers, Arizona Governor Dough Ducey took to Twitter and threatened to withdraw all planned financial incentives for Nike to construct a $185-million plant in the Grand Canyon State.
The sports firm reportedly made the decision to withdraw the shoes after former NFL star and Nike endorser Colin Kaepernick called the Betsy Ross flag shoes 'offensive.'
The 31-year-old quarterback, after seeing the sneaker design online, said the old American flag on the sneakers was offensive because of its links to an era of slavery, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Betsy Ross flag, which features 13 white stars in a circle representing the 13 original US colonies, was created during the American Revolution.
Lawmakers, at the time, had advocated the expansion of slavery and declared that those born into slavery were slaves for lives.
The flag, in recent times, has been appropriated by several extremist groups who are opposed to the increasing diversity in the country.
Nike, on Monday, announced that it would be pulling out its sneakers featuring an early American flag, known as "Betsy Ross". The sneakers were created in celebration of July 4, independence day.
The Arizona Governor conveyed his disappointment in a series of tweets, writing: "words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision."
"I am embarrassed for Nike," Ducey wrote, adding that Tuesday was supposed to be a good day in his state 'with the announcement of a major Nike investment in Goodyear, AZ'.
Reports said the sneakers, called Air Max 1 USA, were set to go on sale this week for $140 and Nike had already shipped the shoes to retailers.
However, the firm abruptly asked for the shoes to be returned.
The newspaper, however, reported that some of the shoes made it to the market, with an online retailer selling a pair for nearly $2,000.
A Nike spokesperson released a statement, saying: "Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 as it featured the old version of the American flag."
Ducey said he would be asking Arizona's Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentives for the company to locate there.
"Nike is an iconic American brand and company. This country, our system of government and free enterprise have allowed them to prosper and flourish," he said in the tweet.
"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. It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it," he continued.
"Nike has made its decision, and now we’re making ours. I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here," the governor said, adding, "Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history."
The governor concluded his tweets by saying that "it shouldn’t take a controversy over a shoe for our kids to know who Betsy Ross is. A founding mother. Her story should be taught in all American schools. In the meantime, it’s worth googling her."
Nike was reportedly planning to build a $185million plant in Goodyear, Arizona that would employ over 500 people.
Nike's vice-president of air manufacturing innovation Lalit Monteiro said the plant would be the company's third manufacturing facility in the US. Goodyear City, during negotiations in May, had agreed to waive nearly $1 million in plan and permit fees, and vowed to reimburse Nike another $1million for the jobs created.
According to the city's estimate, a Nike plant in the region would bring in $7.7 million in direct revenue for the city and put its overall economic impact at more than $483 million within the plant's first five years.
Despite the state governor's threat, Goodyear's Mayor Georgia Lord stood her ground to open the Nike manufacturing plant in the Phoenix suburb, according to AZ Central.
"We will honor the commitment we made in our agreement," Lord said. "It has been a focus of the Goodyear City Council to build a strong economy for years to come and we will continue to work hard to bring the kind of high-quality jobs that our residents deserve."