Nike, the Goddess of Victory, had an epic fail last week when she canceled her launch of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July sneaker featuring the Betsy Ross flag. No matter which side of the equation you are on regarding athletes taking a knee in the NFL, or any other sport, during the National Anthem, Nike’s reversal on a shoe design is a fail for another critical reason.
As a former Cover Girl cosmetics marketer, I can assure you that in general “talent” does not have a say in product development, design, or marketing, nor can they impact a product launch. Imagine Christie Brinkley telling Cover Girl execs back in the day – “I don’t like that eye shadow color, it’s unappealing, don’t ship it.” Trust me, the talent would lose their lucrative endorsement contract. Companies whose management do not value their product development, design and marketing professionals, the ones who work tirelessly to advance their brand, will eventually lose those creative minds to competitors. To me, this recent event makes me sad for those Nike employees who have worked for a year or more on this sneaker launch in product development, package engineering, planning, logistics, sales, marketing, and publicity, only to have it derailed by one voice who did not pay attention in history class.
The Betsy Ross flag, named for the Quaker seamstress, upholsterer and flag maker, and one of the only females associated with the Revolutionary War (along with Deborah Sampson who disguised herself as a man and joined George Washington’s army, but that is another story), is a significant patriotic symbol which should be honored. According to her family, she created the design with its distinguishing feature, thirteen 5-pointed stars (vs. 6-pointed stars which were suggested) arranged in a circle to represent the unity of the Thirteen Colonies. My grandmother was also a seamstress and as a young girl I felt a kinship with Betsy Ross, because of my grandmother.
The fact that an extremist group may have hijacked this flag to represent hate in recent history does not negate or diminish its importance to the country’s founding. In fact, it is ironic that a group that avows to hate women would use a symbol created by a woman. The joke’s on them, but seriously, this flag flown by normal American humans is, and was, meant to signify our new nation, as Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address, “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men [humans] are created equal.” Our union is far from perfect, yet we must continue to choose kindness and love.
We are an UnderArmour family, so I don’t usually pay attention to the Winged Goddess except as it relates to women’s soccer. Nike also had an epic victory last week announcing that the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team official home jersey is its number one top-selling jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold in one season. It is so fun to rally behind #OneNationOneTeam. As I wrote in a column last year, collective joy truly uplifts. These exceptional soccer players are a special breed – dedicated, full of athleticism, spirit, and patriotism – and they have captured our hearts in a way that overpaid male athletes have not. These 23 highly trained athletes are role models to an estimated one million girls playing soccer in our country who all share their dream. And, they deserve to celebrate their individual and team goals, and wins, unapologetically. They are, after all, playing in the WORLD Cup – a championship far greater than any Super Bowl.
I was at home last Sunday, along with many of you, watching with bated breath, as the U.S. took on the Netherlands. It was a hard fought game. The U.S. defended their World Cup title and, again, took the win, for the fourth time. Historic and incredibly inspirational! I hope they also win their lawsuit for equal pay. Women and girls in this country, and in the world, are watching.
And, let’s just be One Nation One Team all of the time.
Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.