Colin Kaepernick may no longer be a quarterback, but he’s calling the plays at Nike. The athletic shoe company was scheduled to release a sneaker featuring the “Betsy Ross flag” this week, but the former San Francisco 49er thought it wasn’t a good idea. The Air Max 1 USA, featuring the Founding-era American flag with 13 white stars arranged in a circle to represent the original colonies, would have gone on sale to mark the Fourth of July holiday. Not any more.

We commend Nike executives for their original patriotic instincts, assuming they were sincere, but they didn’t think this one through. Last year the company launched an ad campaign featuring a black-and-white photo of Mr. Kaepernick bearing the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

The slogan is an allusion to Mr. Kaepernick’s belief that the NFL declined to sign him after his 2016 season, not because he played badly (though by most measures he did) but because he knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African-Americans.

Remember the national anthem? Normally we sing it standing and facing the American flag. Did no one at Nike foresee a contradiction between its exaltation of Mr. Kaepernick’s anti-flag fervor, on the one hand, and its flag-embossed sneaker on the other?

Mr. Kaepernick certainly noticed. The former QB, seeing images of the Stars-and-Stripes-themed shoe on social media, contacted Nike to convey his disapproval. According to a report in The Journal, he told Nike he believes the flag is an offensive symbol of oppression and slavery, dating as it does from the 1770s. Nike folded faster than the New York Giants offensive line.

The company had already shipped the shoes to retailers, but it deferred to Mr. Kaepernick’s historical and semiotic expertise and had them all recalled. Nike offered no explanation. A company spokesperson would only say the shoe was recalled because “it featured the old version of the American flag.”

Nike is entitled to cancel its products for any reason. But the rest of us are entitled to point out that no flag of the United States is a symbol of oppression and racism, and that Mr. Kaepernick’s suggestion that it is one— with Nike’s tacit agreement — is political theater based on false history. We’re also old enough to recall when feminists considered Betsy Ross a hero, not a symbol of repression. But that’s another sign of our current political insanity.

It’s also worth remembering that harebrained controversies like this give many Americans the not unreasonable sense that their country is being maligned by pampered social-justice warriors. Donald Trump has reaped enormous political benefits from the ill-judged fashion among NFL players to kneel during the national anthem. If the president wins re-election, perhaps he should write a thank-you note to Colin Kaepernick and Nike.

An editorial from the Wall Street Journal.

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