Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced Tuesday that his state would no longer be offering financial incentives for Nike to open a new factory in Goodyear, Arizona.
The move follows Nike’s decision to pull a Fourth of July-themed sneaker bearing the Betsy Ross flag, after Nike endorser and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reached out to company officials to say the flag had connections to white supremacy and slavery.
According to the NAACP, the flag, with its 13 stars symbolizing the original 13 colonies, has been appropriated by “the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.”
The Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July shoe initially featured an image of the Betsy Ross flag on its heel. After Kaepernick reached out, Nike asked that retailers return the sneakers they had already shipped. It was unclear if any were sold.
The conservative response was predictable outrage, none more so than from Ducey.
“Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy,” Ducey tweeted early Tuesday morning. “[It] has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism.”
Ducey went on to say that he’d ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw any financial incentives that the state had been offering the company for a planned shoe manufacturing plant in Goodyear. Nike has made an initial investment of $184.5 million into the plant, which is scheduled to begin operations in 2020, and it is expected to create at least 505 jobs over the next three years.
In recent years, the Betsy Ross flag has been co-opted and used as a symbol for nativist groups. The flag often features prominently at Trump rallies and was also the source of controversy during a 2016 high school football game in Michigan. There, students from a predominantly white school waved the Betsy Ross flag — along with a Trump banner — while playing against a predominantly black school, an incident which drew condemnation from the local branch of the NAACP.
“Celebrating flags co-opted by exclusionary movements held next to political banners of a presidential candidate who has offended people of color and immigrants … are not coincidences by unaware students,” Cle J. Jackson, president of the NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch, said in a statement at the time. “They are intentional acts of intimidation and rooted in no agenda other than to insult, to injure, and to incite.”
The incident eventually forced the school district superintendent Dan Behm to apologize, saying that the use of the Betsy Ross flag “injects hostility and confusion to an event where no one intended to do so.”
Despite the flag’s racist implications, Ducey tweeted Tuesday that he was embarrassed at Nike’s “terrible decision.”
“I am embarrassed for Nike,” he wrote. “…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.”
Arizona has notably been criticized in the past for banning Mexican-American history classes in public schools, with supporters of that rule calling such a curriculum “extremely anti-American” and “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.”
A judge later overturned that ban, saying it violated students’ constitutional rights.