Gov. Doug Ducey nixed up to $1 million in incentives meant to help attract NIKE manufacturing jobs to Arizona after the company decided to pull back a new shoe featuring a U.S. flag design credited to Betsy Ross.
In a series of 2 a.m. tweets, Ducey wrote that he was “embarrassed for Nike,” which reportedly recalled the shoes from retailers after Nike-sponsored athlete Colin Kaepernick told the company the shoes featured a flag design connected to a period of U.S. history when slavery was legal, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The shoe featured a logo on its heels of the original U.S. flag, a design with 13 stars representing the 13 colonies during the American Revolution.
“Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism,” Ducey tweeted. “It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.”
It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it. 6/
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) July 2, 2019
Ducey ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw “all financial incentive dollars under their discretion” that the state was providing NIKE to help facilitate its new manufacturing plant in Goodyear, Arizona.
That amounts to a grant of up to $1 million, according to Arizona Commerce Authority Executive Vice President Susan Marie. It’s unclear precisely how much the state was prepared to provide Nike within that range.
Those dollars were meant to help Nike find a new home in Goodyear for a 500-job manufacturing plant.
In a statement, NIKE officials state they regularly make “business decisions” to withdraw certain products, and this was no different.
“NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday,” according to the statement.
“NIKE is a company proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the US Olympic team and US Soccer teams,” the company said. “We already employ 35,000 people in the U.S. and remain committed to creating jobs in the U.S., including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing center which will create 500 new jobs.”
Left unsaid was whether those 500 manufacturing jobs are still on their way to Arizona. Company officials did not immediately respond to a question about where they now plan to locate the new manufacturing center.
If Nike still decides to come to Arizona, it won’t be empty handed as Goodyear officials approved their own incentive package on Monday, the Arizona Republic reported.
Goodyear agreed to waive up to roughly $1 million in city review and permit fees, according to the Republic.
The city would also reimburse Nike $1 million of its $184.5 million investment in building improvements if the company created at least 500 full-time manufacturing jobs within five years.
Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord stated Tuesday afternoon that the city will follow through on the financial incentives approved by the city council on Monday despite the “difficult situation” the city was placed in.
“Last night, the Goodyear City Council unanimously approved a job creation agreement with Nike. This deal is expected to bring more than 500 jobs and a significant investment to the city,” Lord stated. “We will honor the commitment we made in our agreement. It has been a focus of the Goodyear City Council to build a strong economy for years to come and we will continue to work hard to bring the kind of high quality jobs that our residents deserve.”
Ducey’s decision was widely praised among Republicans, both in Arizona and nationally.
The governor drew support from the likes of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who tweeted that he “stand(s) with Gov. @dougducey and agree that the history of our founding, including Betsy Ross, should be taught in all schools.”
Meghan McCain tweeted, “Completely support this decision by Governor @dougducey.”
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 2, 2019
Others criticized the governor, like Democratic state Sen. Martin Quezada, who wrote that Ducey’s maneuver legitimized “#DogWhistle politics at its finest.”
“@Nike and @Kaepernick7 chose to be bold and take a controversial stand knowing it would shine light on a creative strategy used by those who commerce in #division, #segregation and #racism,” Quezada tweeted.
Quezada added that the Betsy Ross flag is yet another symbol “hijacked” by white supremasists.
“So as leaders we have 2 choices: We can either bury our heads in the sand and profess ignorance to these coded appeals, and further legitimize them in the process as Governor Ducey has done here; or… challenge these issues head on, as difficult or controversial as they may be,” he tweeted.
CNN reported last year that the Ku Klux Klan distributed materials in upstate New York urging people to join the organization. Those materials included a picture of a Klansman on a horse, with the Confederate battle flag on one side and the Betsy Ross flag on the other.
There also was a 2013 report in the Albany (Georgia) Herald which said that a Klan group must use the Confederate battle flag or the Betsy Ross flag to cover the altar at certain meetings.
Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include comment from Nike and the City of Goodyear and include background on the significance of the Betsy Ross flag.