This week, sportswear giant Nike agreed to pull their “Betsy Ross Flag” sneakers after former NFL player nd anthem-protester Colin Kaepernick, advised them that the American flag is a symbol of racism, hate, and slavery. However, the company has had no issue offering shoes with many other national flags and colors, including human rights abusers such as China and Turkey.
Naturally, Nike was quick to create gay pride flag-themed shoes. There are quite a few styles set up in the rainbow colors of gay pride. So, as far as Nike is concerned, gay pride is great, but American pride is “racist.”
But Nike has also created shoes with the flags of all sorts of nations on them. Over the last few decades, Nike has offered many shoes decorated with the colors and flags of a growing list of countries without regard to their records on racism, violence, gay rights, and human rights abuses.
There was the Nike SB Dunk High Tricolor that featured red, white, and blue stripes. But the shoes were meant to celebrate the French Tricolor flag as opposed to America’s Old Glory.
France is not a lone example. There have been several versions of the green and red Mexican flag. There have also been shoes with Italy’s flag, Germany’s, Jamaica’s, a pair with the Turkish colors, even several different designs with the Chicago flag, the California flag, and the Olympic flag.
Speaking of the Olympics, there are a few Nike styles called the “Internationals,” including the Nike Air Max 90 and Air Max 95, featuring a ribbon of flags from all over the world.
There have been other shoe designs featuring Olympics celebrations, as well. To celebrate the Olympics in 2016, Nike added a “country flag” option to orders which included China and presumably any country that attended the games such as Saudi Arabia.
It may seem warm and fuzzy to celebrate all these nations on their shoes. But it is notable that even as the sportswear company is now insisting that the U.S. flag is a “symbol of oppression” and is inexorably tied to “slavery,” and “racism,” they have no problem at all celebrating some of the countries above that have far worse, modern day records on human rights.
While happily offering the Turkish flag shoes, for instance, Nike seems less interested that Turkey ranks as the second most restrictive country on gay rights.
Also, with countries such as Saudi Arabia and China playing in the Olympics, the Nike shoes that could be ordered featuring flags from those countries might also seem to be in violation of Nike’s newfound delicate sensibilities.
Just over a month ago, the U.S. Department of State slammed China for its human rights abuses, saying that the communist nation has a record worse than Stalin and Hitler’s.
Also, Saudi Arabia was recently lambasted by a large number of human rights organizations. Just last year, Amnesty International criticized the Saudi Kingdom and accused authorities of torturing and sexually abusing human rights activists.
Finally, with the NikeID service, customers can order shoes with any flag on them that they want. So, it appears that only the U.S. flag is being singled out as unacceptable.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.