Nike has pulled a patriotic sneaker featuring the so-called Betsy Ross flag from shelves at the behest of Colin Kaepernick, who reportedly informed the company the design had racist ties.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Nike shipped the America-themed Air Max 1 USA shoes to retailers, then asked they be returned without an explanation.
“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag,” a spokeswoman for the company told the outlet.
A rep for the company did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The flag, which was stitched on the heel of the shoe, was created in the 1770s, with one white, five-pointed star representing each of the 13 original colonies set against a blue background, and 13 red and white stripes, according to the website of Philadelphia’s Betsy Ross House.
Kaepernick, however, reportedly reached out to Nike to tell them not to sell the shoes, as the design is considered offensive to some due to its connection to an era of slavery.
Back in 2016, a local NAACP chapter in Michigan linked the flag to “militia groups” who are “responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy” after students at a Grand Rapids high school flew the flag alongside a Trump political flag at a football game.
Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, became the face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign in September.
He has emerged as a leading activist in the fight against racial inequality in America after he began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 as a peaceful protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
The #TakeAKnee movement, as it came to be called, soon spread to other teams and ignited serious backlash from many including President Trump.
Since taking his stand, Kaepernick, 31, remains unsigned, and in February, he reached a settlement after suing the NFL for colluding against him because of his political beliefs.
Forbes reports that the Air Max 1 USA shoes originally retailed for $120, but are now going for $2,500 on StockX, a streetwear auction site.
Nike’s decision to yank the shoes from shelves has already prompted backlash, including from Arizona governor Doug Ducey, who accused the company of “bow[ing] to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism” on Twitter.
Ducey wrote that he’d ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the state was providing for Nike to set up a multimillion-dollar manufacturing plant in Goodyear.
“Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike,” he wrote. “We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham also criticized the decision, writing on Twitter, “No more @nike sneakers for our family.”
Others, however, praised the move, and praised Kaepernick for taking yet another stand.
“Thank you @Kaepernick7 for shedding light on the fact that Betsy Ross’ flag is racist. I’m sitting here shaking now that I know that my history teachers left this vital piece of information from me,” one user wrote on Twitter.
Another said, “Thank you @Kaepernick7 & @Nike. It’s one thing to know how racist our history is but it is another thing to see people wearing the Betsy Ross symbols of our racist past, esp now!”
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