A group of black pastors has demanded that Nike sever ties with football player-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick over his political views.
The group has also called for the popular sportswear brand to reinstate its Betsy Ross flag shoes, which the company pulled after Kaepernick insisted were inappropriate as they were a throwback to the slave era.
What are the details?
The Coalition of African-American Pastors says that Kaepernick's thoughts — including those on the flag shoe design — are too far on the fringe for a company like Nike.
The group issued a blistering statement condemning Kaepernick's behaviors, adding that the activist represents "radical anti-American sentiment."
Published in the Commercial Appeal, the statement — penned by Coalition President Rev. Bill Owens — demanded the company make the Betsy Ross flag shoes available for the public to purchase.
"Removing the Betsy Ross flag shoes at his behest implies that your company shares his negative view of America, its founders, and the woman who designed the first flag," a portion of the statement read. "... For a long time, sport has been something that brings Americans together. Nike has been one of the companies we associate with 'Team USA.' Please don't tarnish that legacy by continuing to cater to anti-American policies."
Owens' letter added, "Many of us marched in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and have an established record of civic activism. We represent a variety of races, ethnicities, and creeds. And we agree that Mr. Kaepernick's views on America and the flag are fringe opinions, not shared by any of us ... especially the African Americans who marched against segregation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, we find Mr. Kaepernick's views to be ill-informed and offensive, especially to veterans and others who have served this country."
Owens also warned that Nike is doing itself a disservice by associating itself with such "fringe opinions," insisting that an affiliation with Kaepernick has "tainted" the group's view of the brand.
"How can we purchase merchandise for ourselves or our families from a company that holds those views of our country?" Owens' letter added. "If this is not the case, we urge you to make it clear that you respect the American flag, its people, and its Founders. We ask that you sever your relationship with Mr. Kaepernick, who has become synonymous with radical anti-American sentiment. And we ask that you make amends to veterans by producing a select run of the Betsy Ross shoes for the benefit of the veterans groups and organizations that help military families."
In an interview, Owens told the outlet that the letter — which is to serve as a petition to Nike and its CEO — gained a warm reception across his board.
"We just don't feel that it was fair that they would pull this flag because [Kaepernick] opposed it. Because he opposes a lot of things," Owens concluded. "We love this country, we love the flag, and we love most things about this country, whereas there are some people who just find something to complain about anything."
The Coalition of African-American Pastors used to be Memphis-based, the outlet reported, but is now based out of Henderson, Nevada, where Owens moved several years ago.