NBC Doubles Down on Calling Betsy Ross Flag Racist, CBS Backtracks

On Wednesday morning, NBC’s Today show doubled down on the left-wing assertion that the first flag of the United States of America should now be deemed as a racist “symbol of hate.” In contrast, CBS This Morning was not impressed by the supposed controversy and pointed out there were “many other things” to be concerned about.

While promoting former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick pressuring Nike to pull sneakers from store shelves that featured the Betsy Ross flag, NBC reporter Stephanie Gosk declared: “Some called the early American flag a symbol of slavery, while others defended it as a patriotic symbol of the Revolutionary War.”

 

 

She then hyped social media rants from the first group: “When the iconic brand revealed the shoe late last month, critics spoke out. One writing, ‘Nike, you should be ashamed of this shoe.’ Another wrote, ‘Can’t wait for the confederate Air Max 90s.’” That echoed her report from Tuesday’s Nightly News, when Gosk touted “some on social media were angry that the flag appeared to celebrate a time when slavery was accepted. One calling the design, ‘air slaveries.’”

The reporter pointed to evidence of the flag’s supposed racist symbolism: “The so-called Betsy Ross flag, named after the 18th century woman mythologized for designing it, has been flown at some nationalist and American Nazi rallies. Some say it celebrates the time of slavery.”

After the segment briefly noted Republicans like Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Texas Senator Ted Cruz blasting Nike’s decision, fill-in co-host Kristen Welker urged Gosk to elaborate on the flag’s alleged offensiveness: “But, Steph, look, this isn’t the first time this Betsy Ross flag has been at the center of controversy, right?” Gosk responded:

Yeah, there has been some limited controversy. There was a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan that was sending out flyers in upstate New York that used the flag. There also was an example at a high school in Michigan where some of the students showed up waving this flag, and then the superintendent apologizing to families later, saying that this flag had become a symbol of hate. But I think this example being the most widespread controversy we’ve seen to date.    

As NBC’s morning show was rushing to justify Kaepernick’s radical views, the hosts of CBS This Morning were far more skeptical. After correspondent Jericka Duncan reported on the story, co-host Gayle King, usually quite friendly to liberal causes, expressed doubt:

 

 

Yeah, racial inequality is a problem in this country and I actually understand why Colin Kaepernick stands up and talks about it and speaks out against it. When I look at the flag controversy, I would understand if it was a confederate flag, I’m not so sure I understand this particular one.

Duncan agreed: “Yeah, I don’t know that most people see that and think about – ” King interjected: “And associate it with slavery.” Duncan thought perhaps Americans should be focused on more important issues: “I was watching TV last night and I heard arguments on both sides. But there are so many other things, to be quite honest, in this country that we probably should be really concerned about.”

That coverage was quite a turnaround from Tuesday’s CBS Evening News, when correspondent Meg Oliver proclaimed: “Nike set off a firestorm after pulling their shoes emblazoned with the Betsy Ross flag, an early version of the American flag with 13 stars and stripes used in the 1700s, before slavery was abolished.”

At least the hosts of CBS This Morning managed to bring a small degree of common sense to the otherwise melodramatic network coverage.

Here is a full transcript of the July 3 segment on NBC’s Today:

7:43 AM ET

KRISTEN WELKER: And we’re back now with an In-Depth look at a new controversy involving Nike and the American flag. That’s right, it’s known as the Betsy Ross flag, which the company put on the back of its new Air Max sneaker. But it was recalled from stores amid a major backlash. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk joins us here live with the details. Hey there, Steph. What’s this all about?

STEPHANIE GOSK: Hey, good morning, guys. You know this Fourth of July-themed shoe triggered a debate even before Nike decided to pull it. Some called the early American flag a symbol of slavery, while others defended it as a patriotic symbol of the Revolutionary War. This morning, a sneaker at the center of the latest battle in the culture wars.

Nike’s decision to pull these red, white, and blue shoes, emblazoned with a colonial-era flag, is whipping up even more controversy. The governor of Arizona threatening to pull incentives for a Nike manufacturing plant in his state, calling Nike’s recall “a shameful retreat.” Adding, “Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision.” The future of the facility, which would employ about 500 people, is unclear.

According to The Wall Street Journal, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick spearheaded the call to get Nike to pull the shoe. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report says he was offended by the use of the flag, as were others. In a statement, Nike says its decision to recall the design was “based on concerns it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”

When the iconic brand revealed the shoe late last month, critics spoke out. One writing, “Nike, you should be ashamed of this shoe.” Another wrote, “Can’t wait for the confederate Air Max 90s.” The so-called Betsy Ross flag, named after the 18th century woman mythologized for designing it, has been flown at some nationalist and American Nazi rallies. Some say it celebrates the time of slavery.

While others, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are renewing calls for a Nike boycott. Cruz tweeting, in part, “their shoes represent snide disdain for the American flag.” Similar calls were made when Nike partnered with Kaepernick last year in an ad campaign.

COLIN KAEPERNICK [NIKE AD]: Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.

GOSK: The former quarterback was the first in the NFL to kneel during the national anthem, protesting police brutality and racial injustice. Some burned their shoes and boycotted Nike, while the company saw its sales rise and its stock price surge.

We reached out to Colin Kaepernick’s agent, who told us he had no comment. There were some of these Fourth of July shoes that made it out to the public, guys. They were selling, in some cases, for thousands of dollars.

WELKER: Wow.

CRAIG MELVIN: Wow. In the secondary market?  

GOSK: Yeah, right. Exactly.

WELKER: Unbelievable. But, Steph, look, this isn’t the first time this Betsy Ross flag has been at the center of controversy, right?

GOSK: Yeah, there has been some limited controversy. There was a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan that was sending out flyers in upstate New York that used the flag. There also was an example at a high school in Michigan where some of the students showed up waving this flag, and then the superintendent apologizing to families later, saying that this flag had become a symbol of hate. But I think this example being the most widespread controversy we’ve seen to date.

MELVIN: Stephanie Gosk.

WELKER: Appreciate it.  

MELVIN: Steph, thank you.

Here is a full transcript of the segment on CBS This Morning:

8:23 AM ET

GAYLE KING: Nike is defending its controversial decision to pull its special edition Fourth of July sneaker featuring the first American flag. The Air Max One sneaker depicted a revolutionary-era flag on the sneaker’s heel. Nike’s endorser, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, reportedly objected to it, partly because of its association with slavery. CTM national correspondent Jericka Duncan is here. And, Jericka, a lot of people talking about this, what is Nike saying?

JERICKA DUNCAN: Well, Nike is, you know, saying that they’re proud of their American heritage but that didn’t stop the company from heeding Kaepernick’s reported concerns. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Colin Kaepernick felt the use of the so-called Betsy Ross flag was offensive. Nike says it halted distribution of the shoe over, quote, “concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”

Some Republican lawmakers are now weighing in on the controversy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he disagrees with Nike’s decision and Arizona’s governor ordered the withdrawal of financial incentives that the state was providing for Nike to build a factory outside Phoenix which, get this, would have provided more than 500 jobs.

As for Kaepernick, his partnership with Nike last year sparked both backlash and praise. That’s because he’s widely recognized for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality when he was in the NFL. But so far, Nike’s relationship with Kaepernick hasn’t appeared to hurt the company. It’s revenue grew by seven percent this year, to more than $39 billion.

KING: Yeah, racial inequality is a problem in this country and I actually understand why Colin Kaepernick stands up and talks about it and speaks out against it. When I look at the flag controversy, I would understand if it was a confederate flag, I’m not so sure I understand this particular one.

DUNCAN: Yeah, I don’t know that most people see that and think about –

KING: And associate it with slavery.

ANTHONY MASON: As a symbol.

DUNCAN: I was watching TV last night and I heard arguments on both sides. But there are so many other things, to be quite honest, in this country that we probably should be really concerned about.

MASON: Alright, Jericka, thank you.  

NB Daily Liberals & Democrats CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today Video Gayle King Stephanie Gosk

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