Nike Responds To Criticism For Pulling Betsy Ross Shoe
Nike said it is "proud of its American heritage" and made the decision to pull a U.S.-themed shoe ahead of July 4th "based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation's patriotic holiday," according to a front-page piece by Safdar, Beaton & McWhirter of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Some Nike employees have said that they were "surprised" by Colin Kaepernick's involvement with pulling the shoe because of its Betsy Ross-style American flag, as he was "concerned about what he believed are its associations with an era of slavery and its adoption by some extremist groups." Sources said that Nike did not send Kaepernick the shoe to approve, and he "wasn't a planned part of its release." Athletes "typically have a say only in products that bear their names." Sources said Kaepernick "saw the flag design after images began surfacing online late last month and raised concerns with a Nike official." It is unclear if Nike Chair, President & CEO Mark Parker was "involved in the decision." Sources said that the special-edition Air Max 1 shoe was a "limited release and wasn't intended to be widely distributed," so removing it did not "pose much financial risk." The shoe was "intended to be a re-release of a July Fourth shoe the company made more than 15 years ago," which used the modern U.S. flag (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/3).
NOT A GOOD LOOK: A WALL STREET JOURNAL editorial writes under the header, "Nike's Patriotic Fumble." The editorial states that it commends Nike execs for their "original patriotic instincts, assuming they were sincere, but they didn't think this one through." Nike is "entitled to cancel its products for any reason," but the "rest of us are entitled to point out that no flag of the United States is a symbol of oppression and racism." Kaepernick's "suggestion that it is one -- with Nike's tacit agreement -- is political theater based on false history" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/3).
DOING THEIR OWN THING: CNBC's Kelly Evans said the decision to pull the shoe "fits with the most important thing to Nike," which is "being young, being hip, being relevant." Pro4ma Founder & CEO Liz Dunn said, "Look at how they've done since they've tied their brand image a bit to Kaepernick. They've obviously been performing." Nomura Instinet analyst Simeon Siegel said, "For better or worse, Nike is in a different conversation because they do thrive on headlines, good or bad, and ... Nike has had controversy after controversy after controversy this year alone, and sales have rocketed forward" ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 7/2). CNBC's Sara Eisen said Nike shares were "under pressure," as the company "continues to deal with the fallout" of pulling the shoes. CNBC contributor Steve Grasso said, "It's really a fine line they have to walk." Eisen added despite a number of "controversies" recently, "Nike sales have skyrocketed." She said, "They take a stand and they know their consumer better than we know their consumer so when they take a bet on Colin Kaepernick, despite all the noise and pushback they were getting, the sales spoke for themselves" ("Closing Bell," CNBC, 7/2).