The Anti-Defamation League admitted on Tuesday that the Betsy Ross flag has been ‘occassionally’ used by extremist groups but added that the association was ‘weak’ at best.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the ADL’s Center of Extremism, said that groups like the Ku Klux Klan have used the flag but would associate other symbols more commonly with white supremacy.
‘Over the past century, some Ku Klux Klan groups — which often have used historical American symbols — have displayed the ‘Betsy Ross Flag,” Pitcavage explained to Bustle on Tuesday.
‘There is one old Klan-related graphic, for example, that depicts a Klansman on a horse while behind him the Confederate flag and the ‘Betsy Ross Flag’ wave. However, the ‘Betsy Ross’ flag is not common among white supremacists.’
The Anti-Defamation League does not include the flag in its database of hate symbols, he added.
‘We view it as essentially an innocuous historical flag,’ Pitcavage added.
In 2016, a Michigan chapter of the NAACP said the flag has been ‘appropriated by the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.’ The statement came in response to a high school football event where the NAACP said some white students used the flag while attempting to intimidate players from a predominantly black school.
The Anti-Defamation League says ‘Patriot movement’ describes groups that include militias and others who have adopted anti-government conspiracy theories. The ADL says there is some overlap between the ‘Patriot’ movement and the white supremacist movement, but that overlap has shrunk over time.
The ADL’s comments comes after Nike pulled a shoe featuring the flag after Colin Kaepernick voiced his concern over the flag.
The Air Max 1 USA shoes were set to go on sale this week for $140.
Nike said in statement that ‘it pulled the shoe based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.’ The company pushed back against criticism that the decision was being ‘anti-American.’
‘Nike is a company proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes including the U.S. Olympic team and U.S. Soccer teams,’ Nike said.
The 31-year-old quarterback, who is also a Nike endorser, said the old American flag emblazoned on the sneakers’ heel was offensive because of its links to an era of slavery, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Nike had already shipped the shoes to retailers when it asked for them to be returned without explanation, according to the paper.
‘Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag,’ a Nike spokeswoman told the outlet.
Kaepernick complained to the company after seeing images of the design online.
The Betsy Ross flag, which features 13 white stars in a circle representing the 13 original U.S. colonies, was created during the American Revolution.
It was a time when lawmakers advocated for the expansion of slavery and declared that those born into slavery were slaves for life.
The flag has more recently been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to the country’s increasing diversity.
Kaepernick ignited a nationwide controversy in 2016 when he decided to protest inequality and racist police brutality by refusing to stand during the national anthem.
Last September, Nike introducing Kaepernick as the new face of its ‘Just Do It’ ad campaign.
A month later, the company released a long-sleeved black t-shirt with the controversial free agent quarterback’s name emblazoned in reflective lettering along the back, and the $50 item sold out within only a few hours.