Perhaps more so than anything else, the top priority of management of minor league baseball teams is to generate publicity.
If that’s the case, then bravo, Tennessee Smokies.
Just in time for July 4, the double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs has chosen to stoke the flames of America’s culture wars with a publicity stunt involving Colin Kaepernick, Nike and the American flag.
Smokies send message to Kaepernick, Nike
The team tweeted on Wednesday an image of its baseball diamond with the “Betsy Ross” American flag worked by the grounds crew into the dirt in the infield.
— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) July 3, 2019
The team deleted the tweet shortly after posting it, but here’s a screenshot.
The image came accompanied with a message.
“Hey @Kaepernick7 after a lot of thought, we have decided it’s best to just do it. #America.”
Team apologizes after deleting tweet
The team later issued an apology for the Twitter post.
Regarding one of our recent tweets regarding @Kaepernick7 and our field design for tonight's game, it was meant to be a light-hearted take on a current situation. We did not mean to offend anyone by it. If it did, we certainly apologize.
— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) July 4, 2019
The message was a response to the recent controversy involving recalled Nike shoes with an American flag theme that had been marketed around the July 4 holiday.
Nike recall stokes controversy
On Monday, Nike recalled its Air Max 1 Quick Strike line of sneakers that featured the “Betsy Ross flag” on the heel.
The recall came under reported pressure from spokesman and activist Colin Kaepernick about the colonial-era American flag that features 13 stars in a circle representing the original 13 colonies.
Flag appropriated by hate groups
The 18th-century flag has raised concerns for representing America’s era of slavery and recent appropriation as a symbol for white nationalists groups like Patriot Movement and Identity Evropa, whose public rise has coincided with the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.
A New York chapter of the Ku Klux Klan has recently used the “Betsy Ross flag” alongside the Confederate flag in its recruiting efforts.
Nike accompanied the recall with the following statement on Tuesday:
“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services,” the statement read. “Nike made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”
Backlash toward Nike recall
The Smokies aren’t the first group to lash out at the recall, with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey calling Nike’s decision “shameful” on Tuesday while vowing to withdraw incentive funding for a planned Nike plant in Goodyear, Arizona.
“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,” Ducey wrote as part of a nine-tweet response to the Nike recall.
Cubs deny involvement in stunt
The Chicago Cubs, who are co-owned by Republican National Committee finance chairman Todd Ricketts, told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Cwik in a statement that the Cubs had nothing to do with Wednesday’s decision by the Tennessee Smokies.
“The Cubs did not have any involvement,” the statement read.
The Smokies are owned by Randy Boyd, who is currently serving as the interim president of the University of Tennessee.
Boyd, a Knoxville entrepreneur, mounted an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Tennessee governor’s office in 2018.
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