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FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, a large billboard stands on top of a Nike store showing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, at Union Square in San Francisco. Nike is pulling a flag-themed tennis shoe after Kaepernick complained to the shoemaker, according to the Wall Street Journal. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Nike is pulling a flag-themed tennis shoe after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick complained to the shoemaker, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The move brought sharp criticism from a couple of politicians, one in Arizone and the other in Missouri.

The shoe's heel has a U.S. flag with 13 white stars in a circle on it, known as the Betsy Ross flag. Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, the Journal said that Kaepernick, a Nike endorser, told the company he and others found the flag symbol offensive because of its connection to slavery.

A wave of protests by NFL players began in 2016 after Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality and racial inequality. The protests grew into one of the most polarizing issues in sports, with President Donald Trump loudly urging the league to suspend or fire players who demonstrate during "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, later appeared in a TV advertisement for Nike.

The Air Max 1 USA shoe had already been sent to retailers to go on sale this week for the July Fourth holiday, the Journal reports.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday that Nike cannot get state money for a planned factory in a Phoenix suburb after the Wall Street Journal report.

It was not immediately clear if the move, which Ducey announced on Twitter at 2 a.m., would derail Nike's plans for a $185 million factory in Goodyear. Ducey's tweets were published hours after the Goodyear City Council approved more than $2 million in tax breaks over five years, but the governor has no control over those incentives.

Meanwhile, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley slammed Nike for the reported recall.

Hawley in a tweet Tuesday called Nike "anti-American" for the move.

Hawley tweeted: "Nike thinks American flag is symbol of oppression? What planet are you on? Nike gladly allows Chinese Communist Party to tell it what products to sell while building its business around sweatshop labor. Nike is anti-American, pure & simple."

He says Nike should apologize to Missourians and restart production of the shoe.

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