Nikes “SLAVE SNEAKERS” :Betsy Ross Flag Scandal!

Nike Betsy ross Flag, 13 colonies flag sneakers.
Written by Town & Tourist

Betsy Ross Flag: Nike Controversy:

Nike Betsy Ross Flag Scandal (July 1st) – The Betsy Ross Flag, 13 Colonies flag, or Old American Flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars to represent the 13 colonies of British America at the time.

Many call it is a powerful political symbol and deemed by many to represent a time in the United states History or British America as it was known then, when slavery was legal and Racism was the norm. Slavery Plantations were abundant in the southern colonies at this time.

Nike Betsy ross Flag, 13 colonies flag sneakers.

Nike Betsy ross Flag, 13 colonies flag sneakers. A controversial 4th July Release. source:

Thus when Nike, decided to release a new pair of sneakers, with the 13 Colonies Flag embodied on the back…it caused up roar amongst many! The “Air Max 1 Quick Strike” was released on the Fourth of July 2019, as a way to celebrate U.S Independence. 

The sneaker release by Nike, backfired as many did not see this as a celebration of U.S independence but more a throwback to darker times and glorifying of Slavery. 

Nike quickly back tracked and halted the sale of the shoe, Nike released a statement saying: 

Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July, as it featured an old version of the American flag,” 

“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services. NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the sneaker based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”

13 Colonies, Betsy Ross Flag

13 Colonies, Betsy Ross Flag.

Critics of the Nike Old American Flag Sneaker:

Many were critical of Nike sneaker including Colin Kaepernick (Former NFL quarterback and staunch activist. 

According to The Wall Street Journal:

The Former NFL quarterback, pleaded with Nike to reconsider their launch explaining it would send the wrong message about Race relations today in the U.S.A and highlight a dark past 

Kaepernick a staunch activist founded Know your rights campaign and retweeted many messages about Nikes new controversial sneaker. Some have even called it “the Slavery Sneaker”. 

Before the release on the 4th of July, Nikes pre release images sparked anger and controversy. From the “Slavery Sneaker” to “Air Slavery” the comments weren’t great. However, there were some defenders of the flag saying it was just showing a part of notable American History and highlighting the subsequent American Revolution. 

Senator Ted Cruz even piped up with his response, the Controversial Nike Trainer with the Tweet below:   

“It’s a good thing Nike only wants to sell sneakers to people who hate the American flag,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote in response to the Journal article on Kaepernick’s role in the decision.


Nike responded to the wave of negative comments by pulling the shoe from production. However, Nike had already shipped many sneakers to shoe retailers across the Nation. 

Collectable “Slave Sneaker”:

The irony of the whole Nike scandal is that the shoe has now become an instant collectable due to it’s limited supply and controversy. The Sneaker originally had a recommended retail price of $140 however, some pairs were spotted selling for $2500 dollars!  

Is the Betsy Ross Flag Racist?

This is open to opinion however it must be mentioned that there support from extreme right wing groups for the Betsy Ross Flag. 

With many right wing groups and extremists have adopted the Betsy Ross flag in recent years. For example, during the 2016 presidential elections some supporters of Donald Trump, showed the Betsy Ross flag on banners, next to the campaign quote “Make America Great Again”. This was at a Michigan High School Football Game. The superintendent of the school released a statement following that the flag was an historic symbol of exclusion and hate! 

In a tweet by Tariq Nasheed, the American film producer and media personality, he displayed an image on his twitter of the Betsy Ross Flag (Old American Flag), being adopted by a white supremacist gang. The III% in Charlottesville, led by white supremacist Michael Ramos. 


Further Criticism and Nike Controversy  (Betsy Ross Flag):

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, took a hard line with Nike during the Betsy Ross Sneaker Scandal and stopped offering tax incentives to Nike. Many believe this was a ploy to try and get nike to invest in operation Goodyear. 

In a statement Doug Stated: 

“We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history,” 


Despite the extreme right wing affiliations, there was still some support of the nike sneaker and disregard for the withdrawal and controversy. For example: 

 Joe Scarborough, the cable news host and former member U.S house of representatives, set the withdrawal from Nike was “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD!” and stated that the flag should be looked at as a symbol of resistance against the British empire. 

So that goes to show the true power of symbols and how they can cause uproar and a variety of opinions. 

Is it a symbol of Hate and Slavery or Just a Historical piece of American Colonial History?

Let us know your thoughts on the 13 colonies, Betsy ross flag controversy in the comments below. 

A "Betsy Ross" flag , old american flag, 13 colonies

A “Betsy Ross” flag flying outside San Francisco City Hall, in San Francisco, California

Betsy Ross Flag History:

The interesting fact is that even though the old american flag is commonly referred to as the Betsy Ross Flag. The common scholar and historian line is that Betsy Ross did not contribute to the design! 

The National Museum of American History states that the Betsy Ross Story initially entered into american popularity at around 1876 during the Centennial Exposition Celebrations. source.

 Ross’s grandson in 1870 one William J. Canby, presented a paper to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania claiming his grandmother had “made with her hands the first flag” of the United States.

However, this runs contrary to another historic account. This account suggests the flag was made in June 1776 by a small group including George Washington, Robert Morris and George ross (a relative of Betty Ross). Betsy was just given the job to Manufacture the flag from the committees design and did not create the original design. 

History of the 13 Colonies (prior to the American Revolution):

The thirteen British Colonies, or the thirteen american colonies were a group of British colonies on the east coast of America founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

The Thirteen Colonies were: 

Georgia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts Bay, New York, South Carolina, New Hampshire,North Carolina, and Rhode Island. 

Upon seeking independence from the British the 13 Colonies went to war with British America governance in what became know as the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). 

13 Colonies Map:

13 Colonies Map

13 Colonies Map. Source

13 Colonies Slavery & Population :

The 13 Colonies had a population boom from 2000 to 2.4 million (1625-1775) displacing many Native American Indians. A portion of the population included many slaves. Slavery was completely legal, in all colonies prior to the American Revolution. 

Betty Ross Flag, Slavery History 13 Colonies

Slavery History 13 Colonies.(Nike Betsy Ross Flag Scandal) Source.

Before the American Revolution, the thirteen colonies were ruled by King George III of Great Britain.

Initially, the Thirteen Colonies had a large amount self governance and many active local elections. They regularly resisted the demands from London for greater control and there was always a friction between the 13 colonies and the British Government. 

One reason for this was the way the British Government operated it’s colonies. They used the policy of Mercantilism, where the central government used the colonies for the economic benefit of the mother country.

The French & Indian war (1754-63) involved the 13 colonies of British America against those of New France. The mother country of each side supported with military units American Indian allies.

At the beginning of the war, the French colonies had a population of around 60,000 compared with the 2 million in the British colonies. Thus the french had to depend massively on the American Indians. 

These caused tensions to rise and by the 1750’s, the 13 colonies began dealing direct with each other and cutting Britain out of the deals entirely. 

The inter colonial relations brought with them a sense of shared American Identity and calls were made on the principle of “No taxation without representation“.


13 Colony Betty Ross Slavery Map

13 Colony Betty Ross Slavery Map…some say nike has a short memory (Nike Betsy Ross Flag Scandal)! Source.

For info on the Underground Railroad – The Colonial Slavery Escape route, check out this great article.

Boston Tea Party & the Thirteen Colonies:

After 1765, there was alot of growing political differences which put strain on the relationship between Britain and its colonies. Patriots began to protest against taxation and then began boycotts. A notable highlight of this was when the Sons of liberty destroyed a large shipment of tea at the infamous “Boston Tea Party” in Boston Harbor. This boycott stemmed from the Tea Act, (1773) which allowed the British  East India Company to sell tea from China to American Colonies without paying much tax on it. 

Boston Tea Party. Source: .      (Nike Betsy Ross Flag Scandal)

The American Patriots opposed the little taxation which was due to the Townshend Act. They considered this act and the subsequent taxation to disregard their rights. 

Thus, they plotted the Boston tea Party Boycott. Many demonstrators with some even disguised as Native Americans boarded the British ships and threw the entire chests of tea into the Boston Harbor…destroying the entire shipment sent by the East India Company. 

Britains Response to the Boston Tea Party:

Britain responded fiercely. They closed Boston Harbor and passed many intolerable acts directly against the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

The many acts took away the self-governance and rights of Massachusetts. This caused tension to escalate and triggered outrage & prompt resistance by the Thirteen Colonies. 

The Great British Government issued four acts to make an example of Massachusetts for their Boston Tea Party stunt. 

1. Boston Port Act.

The Boston Port Act  was passed in 1774 and shutdown the port of Boston until the colonists, came with the funds to pay for the destroyed tea and the king had to be satisfied that order had been restored. 

2. The Massachusetts Government Act

The Massachusetts Government Act created immense outrage because it took away Massachusetts charter and thus making it to be governed by the British government. 

3. The Administration of Justice Act 

The Administration of Justice Act  gave the Royal governor the power to order trials of accused royal officials to be taken in Great Britain or other parts of the Empire. The idea of this was if it was believed  the defending party would not be given a fair trial in Massachusetts. 

4. The Quartering Act

The Quartering Act was a more general act and applied all British colonies. The idea was to create a more effective method of keeping British troops in America.

Previously, the 13 colonies were required to provide sufficient housing for soldiers but the Colonial legislatures weren’t cooperative in this.


13 Colonies – American Revolution:

The Patriots of the 13 colonies saw the acts a violation of the rights of Massachusetts. In response they setup the First Continental Congress (1774) and began a protest. The first major act they imparted was called the Suffolk Resolves, (Sep 9th 1774).

This declared that the Massachusetts Government Act would be rejected and British goods imported would be boycotted…. unless the intolerable Acts introduced were revoked. As you might of guessed this caused tensions to escalate and American Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775. 

Washington at Valley Forge, American Revolution.

Washington at Valley Forge, American Revolution. 13 Colonies.  (Nike Betsy Ross Flag Scandal)

British attempted to disarm the Massachusetts militia in Concord. This let to fierce open combat. The Militia then besieged Boston and the British were forced to Evacuate the following year in March 1776. Upon July 1776 the 13 colonies declared themselves the independent United States of America.

George Washington was appointed the commander of the Continental Army and the Continental Congress coordinates Fierce resistance to take power. 

13 Colonies – Order of Establishment:

Colony: Year Established Founder Date became Royal Colony
Virginia 1607 London Company 1624
Massachusetts 1620 – Plymouth Colony 

1630 – Massachusetts Bay Colony

Puritans 1691
New Hampshire 1623 John Wheelwright 1679
Maryland 1634 Lord Baltimore
Connecticut 1635 Thomas Hooker
Rhode Island 1636 Roger Williams
Delaware 1638 Peter Minuit and New Sweden Company
North Carolina 1653 Virginians 1729
South Carolina 1663 Eight Nobles with a Royal Charter from Charles II 1729
New Jersey 1664 Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret 1702
New York 1664 Duke of York 1685
Pennsylvania 1682 William Penn
Georgia 1732 James Edward Oglethorpe 1752

Three Regions of the 13 Colonies:

New England Colonies:

The New England Colonies consisted of: 

  • Connecticut 
  • Rhode Island 
  • Massachusetts 
  • New Hampshire

Facts about New England Colonies:

  • Climate: The Coldest of the three area, the New England Colonies had harsh winters which made them prone to more disease. 
  •  Landscape: The Landscape of the New England Colonies was made up of forrest covered mountains and rivers with bad rock filled soil farmers could not work the land here. 
  •  Resources:  The New England Colonies was had an abundance of Fish, whales, wood from the forests. 
  • Religion: The region was mostly Puritan (English Protestants) with no religious freedom. 
13 Colonies Regions and Resources Map.

13 Colonies Regions and Resources Map. (Nike Betsy Ross Flag Scandal)

Middle Colonies:

  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania 
  • New Jersey
  • New York

Facts about Middle Colonies:

The first settlements of the Middle Colonies were dominated by Europeans from Holland and Germany whom were the Majority. There were relatively few english colonists by comparison. 

  • Resources: Great land for Agriculture, and an abundance of coal, timber, furs and Iron ore which was very important. 
  • Religion: The middle colonies were not dominated by just one religion. This opened the door to religious freedom for jews, Catholics, Luterans and Quakers. 

 Fun Fact: Quakers are a group of Christians, which use no written scripture and believe in great simplicity in daily life and in worship. They  believe that the truth is continuously revealed to individuals directly from God. 


Southern Colonies:

  • Maryland
  • Virginia 
  • North Carolina 
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  •  Climate: As the Climate is warmer in the south, the winters are fine except disease tended to spread faster!
  • Landscape: The South Colonies were hilly coastal lands with plenty of forests. 
  • Resources: The Southern colonies were Plantation hubs. That grew tobacco, sugar cane, rice and cotton. Thus Slave Plantations were abundant in this area.
  • Religion: The south was not dominated by a certain religion and had religious freedom for many religions from Baptists to Anglicans. 

For more on the Nike Betsy Ross Flag Scandal, check out ABC news report below:


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