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Ducey blocks $1M economic grant to Nike
Move comes after company pulls shoes bearing ‘Betsy Ross’ flag when Colin Kaepernick speaks out

Immigrants raise their right hands and take the oath of citizenship of the United States at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, during a naturalization ceremony on Flag Day, Friday, June 14, 2019. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Immigrants raise their right hands and take the oath of citizenship of the United States at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, during a naturalization ceremony on Flag Day, Friday, June 14, 2019. (Matt Rourke/AP)

PHOENIX — A flap about the meanings of a historic U.S. flag has led Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to block a $1 million economic development grant to Nike, accusing the company of bowing to “the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism."

In a series of early morning Twitter posts on Tuesday, the governor said he was upset about the decision by the international company to cancel rollout of a new sneaker that features the “Betsy Ross flag”. That banner, which may or may not have been designed by Ross, features 13 white stars in a circle on a field of blue, with the traditional 13 red and white stripes.

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A large billboard stands on top of a Nike store showing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sept. 5, 2018, at Union Square in San Francisco. Nike is pulling a flag-themed tennis shoe after Kaepernick complained to the shoemaker, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Eric Risberg/AP, File)

What apparently caused Nike to decide not to release the $140 shoe as scheduled on July 4 was a complaint by former NFL quarterback and current activist Colin Kaepernick to the company that the flag is associated with white supremacists.

Ducey, in his postings, said Tuesday “was supposed to be a good day in Arizona’’ with the announcement of a major Nike investment. That followed a vote Monday by the Goodyear City Council to waive about $1 million in development fees and provide up to $1 million in incentives for creating about 500 jobs.

“And then this news broke yesterday afternoon,” the governor wrote, quoting from the Wall Street Journal which had broken the news of the Nike decision.

“I am embarrassed for Nike,” Ducey said, saying that this country, its system of government and free enterprises have allowed the shoe company to prosper and flourish.

“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,’’ he wrote, announcing he ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all of its incentives.

“Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike,’’ said Ducey, who in the past five years has held press events to announce new and expanded operations in Arizona with a smaller employment impact. “We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history.’’

Less clear is whether Nike intends to go ahead with the proposed manufacturing plant. There was no immediate response from either the company or city officials.

A Commerce Authority spokeswoman would say only that her agency was “active in the deal’’ to attract Nike, offering a $1 million “performance-based grant.’’

“This offer was accepted, contingent upon final negotiations and a formal agreement,’’ Susan Marie said. “The offer has now been withdrawn.’’

The governor did not respond to repeated requests to explain his decision or answer questions about the underlying issue of the flag and its symbolism.

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 that said that a Klan group must use the Confederate battle flag or the Betsy Ross flag to cover the altar at certain meetings.

Reaction to the governor’s decision generally was split along partisan lines, with Republicans who posted their own Twitter message in favor and Democrats like Rep. Reginald Bolding of Laveen opposed, calling Ducey’s move “a joke.’’

“Glad to see decisions can be made so quickly regarding the Nike announcement but when it comes to real decisions like standing up for children dying at the border or inmates & correctional officers being beat to death b/c locks don’t work you need time for due diligence,’’ he wrote.

And Christina Sandefur, executive vice president of the Goldwater Institute, which tends to oppose government incentives, had her own take on the issue.

“What’s really patriotic is when government doesn’t pick winners and losers at all, when taxpayers aren’t forced to pay private businesses to make shoes — or anything else,’’ she wrote.

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