While Democrats and media pundits pounce to decry the Betsy Ross flag as racially problematic — with one even likening the symbol to Nazi swastikas — the very same flag flew prominently during then-President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony in 2013.
The reminder that the flag was displayed during Obama’s inauguration came amid the controversy from Nike halting the release of shoes bearing the flag, which flew during the Revolutionary War.
The company worried that the flag could “unintentionally offend” people, after controversial football player Colin Kaepernick expressed concern over the design, claiming it recalled the slavery era and has been appropriated by white nationalists. The controversy quickly worked its way into the national political bloodstream, with some Democratic presidential candidates siding with Nike.
President Trump’s campaign fired back by noting the flag’s otherwise broad appeal.
“Democrats running for president have officially lost it. Beto & Castro strongly imply that the Betsy Ross flag is a symbol of hatred. Do the rest of the Dems agree? Pictured here, of course, is the notorious flag prominently featured at President Obama’s 2nd inauguration,” tweeted Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, also mocked those suddenly criticizing the flag, tweeting that “weird that no one had a problem with The Betsy Ross Flag when it flew over Obama’s inauguration.”
Liberal pundits and 2020 presidential candidates alike jumped on the controversy, with former HUD Secretary Julián Castro saying he was “glad to see” Nike removed the shoes over the “painful” symbol that he compared to the Confederate flag.
“There are a lot of things in our history that are still very painful,” Castro told CBS News. As an example, he cited “the Confederate flag that still flies in some places and is used as a symbol.”
“I think it’s really important to take into account the impression that kind of symbol would have for many of our fellow Americans.”
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, meanwhile, also gave thumbs up for Nike’s decision, noting that “white nationalist groups” have “appropriated” the Betsy Ross flag, without providing evidence.
“I think it’s really important to take into account the impression that kind of symbol would have for many of our fellow Americans,” he said, according to Jewish Insider.
MSNBC guest Michael Eric Dyson echoed the Democrats’ comments, saying that conservatives were wrong to decry “political correctness” on Nike’s part.
“Words matter. Symbols matter, too,” Dyson told MSNBC host Hallie Jackson when she asked about concerns over political correctness.
“Why don’t we wear a swastika for July 4th? Because, I don’t know, it makes a difference,” he said. “The cross burning on somebody’s lawn. Why don’t we just have a Nike celebration of the cross — those symbols are symbols of hate. So we can take PC culture back.”
The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday weighed in on the debate, saying the flag is “innocuous” and has been used by people mostly for patriotic purposes.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow for the group’s Center on Extremism, told the Associated Press that the flag isn’t in the organization’s hate symbol database and while extremist groups have occasionally used the flag, it’s most commonly used by people for patriotic purposes.
“We view it as essentially an innocuous historical flag,” he said. “It’s not a thing in the white supremacist movement.”
Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.