2020 Democrats

Beto: I respect Nike’s decision to pull American flag shoes

Credit: Greg Skidmore

Former U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People hosted by the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and the SEIU at the Enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Marshalltown, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told reporters on Wednesday that he “respected the decision Nike made” to pull special edition tennis shoes with images of the American flag from the market after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly complained.

The shoes featured the original American flag with 13 stars and stripes designed by Betsy Ross in 1777 that has been adopted by some white nationalist groups and, as a result, drew opprobrium from Kaepernick. The decision has brought major backlash from those who simply view the flag as a symbol of the United States. A similar flag was featured at both inaugurations of Barack Obama. A number of lawmakers have condemned the decision and Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey has pulled economic incentives for a Nike manufacturing facility in the state.

When asked about the decision by reporters at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, O’Rourke noted that the flag had been adopted as a symbol by some extremists and white nationalists. He noted that with the legacy of slavery and segregation “I think its really important to take into account the impression that that kind of symbol would have for many of our fellow Americans. So I respect the decision Nike made and more importantly grateful for the conversation that this is producing.”

The statement was not O’Rourke’s first brush with controversy over Nike and Kaepernick. Asked in 2018 about NFL players, like Kaepernick, who knelt in protest during the National Anthem, the then candidate for Senate praised the action. The Texas Democrat said of the players “nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it. That is why they are doing it. And I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights, any time, anywhere, in any place.”

The video went viral and helped make O’Rourke a national political figure before he narrowly lost his bid for Senate to Ted Cruz. 

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