SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – After Nike pulled a Fourth of July shoe featuring Betsy Ross’ flag for the 13 American colonies, Nine Line Apparel, a local, veteran-owned company, has released a t-shirt highlighting it.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Air Max 1 sneakers were nixed when former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick told Nike he and others believe the flag is offensive due to its connections to slavery.
In recent years, it has been appropriated by far-right groups to represent a time when slavery was legal in the United States.
But Nine Line disagrees, saying the flag “in no way, shape or form alludes to slavery yet is a direct representation of freedom fought and earned by early Americans.”
The move from Nike has drawn criticism on a national level, for example, from a handful of Republican lawmakers. But that criticism is echoed locally, too.
“Apparently, symbols of patriotism are now racist,” Nine Line posted online. “Its clear Kaepernick knows nothing about the country he lives in.”
The company says they are proud to display the Betsy Ross flag and are encouraging Americans to boycott Nike along with them.
“Nike seeks profit through controversy, but with absolutely no regard for the consequences,” said Nine Line Apparel CEO Tyler Merritt in a statement. “In its corporatist wake, it leaves behind anti-American sentiment and division, harming our country.”
This isn’t the first time the company has released a t-shirt or statement opposing Nike and Kaepernick — who is known for kneeling during the National Anthem in what he says is a protest against systemic racism in the U.S.
In 2018, Nine Line first released a “Just Stand” t-shirt line in response to Nike’s ad featuring the former NFL quarterback, which read: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The company also said they submitted a commercial to play during the 2019 Super Bowlfeaturing veterans and first responders to show their message of what sacrifice really is.
Nine Line’s t-shirt design is only available for a limited time, but the company also offers a few other items that incorporate the Betsy Ross flag.