SAVANNAH, Ga. – A veteran-owned South Georgia apparel company is releasing a Victory T-shirt highlighting the original American flag with 13 stars that Nike pulled from its latest sneakers.
Production of the Air Max 1 shoes was canceled after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick told Nike he and others believe the flag is offensive due to its connections to slavery.
Nine Line Apparel, a Savannah company, disagrees, telling WSAV-TV that the flag “in no way, shape or form alludes to slavery yet is a direct representation of freedom fought and earned by early Americans.”
Nine Line was among those criticizing Nike for bowing to criticism. The company said it is proud to display the Betsy Ross flag and is encouraging Americans to boycott Nike along with them.
"We find it disgusting that Nike, a company named after the goddess of victory, would be so easily swayed into a false narrative that an iconic patriotic symbol of America’s independence now somehow – over 200 years later - holds racial and divisive undertones," the company posted on its website. "The social commentary that Nike is trying to impose on this symbol just shows how dismissive they are of the principles that our country was founded on and how out of touch they are with the values of the American public. We at Nine Line are still standing true to our patriotic values, and we encourage the American people to stand with us to make their voices heard. #NoToNike"
This isn’t the first time the Nine Line has released a T-shirt or statement opposing Nike and Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the playing of 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. The company also submitted a commercial to play during the 2019 Super Bowl featuring veterans and first responders to show their message of what sacrifice really is.
“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.”
Nine Line’s T-shirt featuring the Betsy Ross flag is only available for a limited time, but the company also offers a few other items that incorporate the design.