Betsy Ross Wasn't a Shoe Designer

Brian Gongol

Nike screwed up, and it has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick. The "Betsy Ross" flag shoe was an offense well before any social media reaction entered the picture.

The flag does not belong on your shoe. It does not belong on your shirt. It does not belong in your magazine ad.

The flag does not belong on your pants. It does not belong on your hat. It does not belong on your backpack.

The flag does not belong in your advertising.

United States Code (4 U.S.C. 8) is quite completely clear:

Nor, per that same section of U.S. Code, is the flag anyone's tool, prop, or plaything:

"The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing."

The flag belongs to each of us, and belongs exclusively to none of us. It is nobody's more than it is anybody's. It isn't a fit subject for advertising, for self-promotion, or for wrapping ourselves in, either. It's a non-partisan, non-exclusive, non-appropriable symbol of the country itself -- all of us, E Pluribus Unum.

Anyone who tries to charge the flag with meaning other than the meaning it shares for all Americans, together, as a living symbol of us as one nation, indivisible, is guilty of civic idolatry. It's not yours to turn into a product. It's not yours to turn into a hot-button. And it's not yours -- ever -- to divide us. That goes for everyone.

Nike screwed up. And so has everyone else who has tried to claim the flag as their own. It does not belong to any party, any ideology, any race, any creed, any color. Any politician who uses it as a cause to selfishly grandstand is guilty of committing the same kind of disrespect as any protester who defaces it.

America is a nation of individual freedoms, so we don't have a lot of unifying symbols. The flag is one of them. Let's agree to keep it pure.