By Adam Shaw, Paul Steinhauser
Published July 04, 2019
Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls weighed in Thursday on Nike’s decision to pull sneakers that featured the iconic Betsy Ross flag, after NFL athlete Colin Kaepernick reportedly said the design was apt to offend some.
“I think Nike listened to its customers and realized that their approach was going to be received negatively by a lot of people they care about, and they are right to listen and admit when they are wrong,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said at a parade in Amherst, N.H.
“I wish we had a president that listened to his constituents and admitted when he’s wrong, but he neither has the humility nor courage to do that,” she added.
Nike pulled the Air Max 1 USA sneaker, which featured a Betsy Ross flag with its readily recognizable circle of stars on the heel, after the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback expressed concerns that the use of the flag carried slave-era connotations, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The decision resonated with many in the political world, with some Republican lawmakers criticizing Nike for its decision. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas., tweeted, “It’s a good thing @Nike only wants to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag.”
Lawmakers including Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also criticized the move.
Arizona Gov. Doug Duce told his state’s commerce authority to pull tax incentives for the company’s planned plant there.
But many 2020 Democrats have taken Nike’s side in this latest culture-war skirmish. Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro told CBS News this week that he was glad to see Nike pull the shoe.
"There are a lot of things in our history that are still very painful," Castro said. As an example, he cited "the Confederate flag that still flies in some places and is used as a symbol."
Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke also approved of Nike's decision, noting that "white nationalist groups" have "appropriated" the Betsy Ross flag as a symbol of bigotry.
"I think it’s really important to take into account the impression that kind of symbol would have for many of our fellow Americans," he said Wednesday, according to Jewish Insider. "So I respect the decision Nike made and more importantly grateful for the conversation that this is producing.”
Another candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was more dismissive of the flap, calling it “the latest Twitter controversy” and saying that she was more interested in celebrating the Fourth of July: “I think that is a business decision they made, I think they should have done the research and figured that out and decided what they wanted to do, and you know right here today instead of being mired in the latest Twitter controversy, I think it’s important we celebrate our country."
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and Joseph Wulfsohn contributed to this report.