Arizona will withdraw financial incentives for Nike Inc's manufacturing plant in the state after the sportswear maker pulled the release of a sneaker that featured a colonial-era version of the American flag, Governor Doug Ducey said on Tuesday.
The world's largest sportswear maker recalled the shoe after former NFL quarterback and Nike sponsor Colin Kaepernick asked the company not to sell a shoe with a symbol that he and others consider offensive because of its connection to an era of slavery, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
Nike had planned to release a new version of the Air Max 1 sneaker ahead of the Fourth of July holiday that featured a version of the U.S. flag with 13 white stars representing the first U.S. colonies. The flag is commonly known as the "Betsy Ross flag."
"Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike," Ducey, a Republican, said in a series of tweets on the recall.
"Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation's independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism," he said.
Nike did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Ducey's decision.
On Monday, a Nike spokesperson said it had "chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag."
Ducey said he had ordered the State's Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentives under its discretion for the company's plant.
Nike was planning to construct a $185 million plant in Goodyear, Arizona, that would employ over 500 people.
Kaepernick last year became the face of Nike's advertisement marking the 30th anniversary of the company's "Just Do It" slogan, sparking similar outrage.
The ad revived a raging debate in the United States that started in 2016 when Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling to protest multiple police shootings of unarmed black men.
Protesters responded by burning their Nike shoes, investors sold shares and some consumers demanded a boycott.
However, since Kaepernick was featured in the Nike ad in September, the company's stock has risen about 4% as of Monday's close.
"I think it's important to understand who Nike's core demographic is here," said Matt Powell, senior industry adviser at NPD. "They’re really focused on teens and looking at the commentary on Twitter and so forth, I don’t see a lot of teens coming out with a negative attitude here."
This year, Nike's shares (NKE) are up 15%, but they were down marginally on Tuesday at $85.05.
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