Minor league baseball team, Tennessee Smokies, received backlash from netizens after posting their stunt on Twitter. The stunt, enacted a day before Independence Day, involved Nike’s Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July shoe design.
The Tennessee Smokies’ controversial tweet was immediately taken down, but by this time screenshots of the tweet had already been widely circulated. The tweet featured an image of the baseball infield, which had the first American flag design by Betsy Ross drawn in the dirt.
Colin Kaepernick was tagged in the tweet, with the caption reading: “Hey @Kaepernick7 after a lot of thought, we have decided it’s best to just do it. #America.” The tweet was quickly deleted after it sparked a barrage of negative comments from Twitter users.
The team tweeted an apology, stating: “Regarding one of our recent tweets regarding @ Kaepernick7 and our field design for tonight’s game, it was meant to be a light-hearted take on a current situation. We did not mean to offend anyone by it. If it did, we certainly apologize.”
The controversial tweet referenced the recalled Nike sneakers which had the Betsy Ross flag on them. Nike’s intention was for these sneakers to be commemorative of the 4th of July.
However, the designs were recalled after activist and spokesperson Colin Kaepernick commented on the colonial-era flag, which featured the 13 original colonies represented by the 13 stars. Kaepernick was concerned that this particular flag design had become a representation of the country’s slavery era, and that white nationalist groups have adopted it as their symbol.
Groups like Identity Evropa and the Patriot Movement, which started getting more attention around the time Trump won the elections, are reported to have used the Betsy Ross flag. Additionally, the Ku Klux Klan’s New York chapter used this flag and the Confederate flag during its recruiting efforts.