You’d think Nike would have learned by now to avoid Colin Kaepernick’s advice like the plague.
After all, it was Kaepernick’s ad for Nike that caused a number of mocking knockoff memes on social media, provoked a boycott of the company, and sent the stock plunging in September of 2018.
But recent news suggests Nike hasn’t learned its lesson. The company followed Kaepernick’s advice, backtracked on its nod to Independence Day, and pulled its patriotic-themed shoes from circulation.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Nike Inc. … is yanking a U.S.A.-themed sneaker featuring an early American flag after NFL star-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe with a symbol that he and others consider offensive….
The sneaker giant created the Air Max 1 USA in celebration of the July Fourth holiday, and it was slated to go on sale this week. The heel of the shoe featured a U.S. flag with 13 white stars in a circle, a design created during the American Revolution and commonly referred to as the Betsy Ross flag.
So why exactly is the Betsy Ross flag offensive?
“After images of the shoe were posted online, Mr. Kaepernick, a Nike endorser, reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery, the people said.”
Slavery. I get it. Slavery was a very tragic period in our history. I regret it. My generation regrets it. Previous generations regret it. Even the Founding generation of Betsy Ross remained uneasy about the issue. Although they continued its practice, many Founders personally opposed owning slaves.
But while we regret it deeply, is it wise to make slavery the only thing we remember about the Founding era? In fixating so much on our past faults, are we forgetting what the Revolutionary War was about?
If so, then perhaps we might be wise to re-examine the reason for the Revolution. John Adams explains it well in an 1818 letter to Hezekiah Niles:
“But what do We mean by the American Revolution? Do We mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People. A Change in their Religious Sentiments of their Duties and Obligations. …
There might be, and there were others, who thought less about Religion and Conscience, but had certain habitual Sentiments of Allegiance And Loyalty derived from their Education; but believing Allegiance and Protection to be reciprocal, when Protection was withdrawn, they thought Allegiance was dissolved[.] …
This radical Change in the Principles, Opinions Sentiments and Affection of the People, was the real American Revolution. [Emphasis added.]
In other words, the Revolution wasn’t just a random act of rebellion. It was preceded by a long period of thought and changing of minds. The Founders, and those of their generation, were thinking and making logical connections. And as anyone who thinks, considers, and wrestles with deep questions knows, it’s not an easy, nor enjoyable process, to have one’s ideas challenged.
Nor is it cut and dry. Changing thoughts and personal ideas takes time. As such, it makes sense that the Founders, although they didn’t come to a conclusion that satisfies our modern sensibilities, wrestled with the idea of slavery, as well as many other things.
They reached the right conclusion on some of those ideas at the time of the Revolution. On others, it was a work in progress.
Is this something we need to remember in the current battle over political correctness? Instead of condemning the past and wiping out any reference to those allegedly evil Founders, do we need to remember that they were humans just like us, wrestling with questions, drawing conclusions, and changing their minds accordingly?
[Image Credit: Kaepernick and Shoes-Twitter; Betsy Ross, Public Domain]
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.