Arizona Gov. Ducey drops plan to lobby for Nike plant after flag shoe pulled

Jul 2, 2019, 7:25 AM | Updated: 4:24 pm

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PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey made national news Tuesday by pulling the plug on incentives to lure Nike to the Phoenix area after the athletics company canceled a shoe featuring an American flag design.

Former NFL quarterback and social activist Colin Kaepernick objected to the Betsy Ross-era design, calling it offensive because of its connection to an era of slavery, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.

“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services,” Nike said in an emailed statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

“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.”

Ducey called it a “terrible decision” and said he was “embarrassed for Nike” in a tweet.

“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,” the company’s statement said.

The Arizona Commerce Authority said in a statement, “At the Governor’s direction, we are withdrawing an up to $1 million grant offer from the Arizona Commerce Authority’ (sic) Competes Fund.

“Unlike other programs in statute that are eligible to any and all companies, including Nike — this is purely discretionary.”

Ducey initially responded to Nike’s decision after reading the Journal’s story. He sent a flurry of tweets that went out starting at 2 a.m.

Ducey had anticipated a day in which he and the business community would celebrate plans for Nike-related Air Manufacturing Innovation to build a $185 million facility in Goodyear.

Air Manufacturing makes the popular Nike Air shoe. More than 500 jobs were expected at the plant.

The Goodyear City Council voted to adopt a resolution of support for a job creation agreement with Nike during Monday’s meeting.

Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Georgia Lord released a statement saying the days’ events hadn’t changed the city’s intentions.

“The city of Goodyear has found itself in the middle of a difficult situation. Today, much has unfolded. I can appreciate the emotion and discussion that I’ve heard on this important topic,” she said.

“Last night, the Goodyear City Council unanimously approved a job creation agreement with Nike. This deal is expected to bring more than 500 jobs and a significant investment to the city. We will honor the commitment we made in our agreement.”

Many of the jobs had been expected to pay over $48,000 a year, according to a city document.

Nike’s statement said it remained “committed to creating jobs in the U.S., including a significant investment in an additional manufacturing center which will create 500 new jobs,” but the company did not specify whether that center would still be located in Goodyear without the state incentives.

Nike is unlikely to suffer financially over the flag flap, said Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at NPD Group Inc.

“I’m sure there are plenty of states out there that would love to have a Nike factory that would employ 500 people,” Powell said. “Today’s consumers really want brands to be vocal on social issues, especially the younger consumers. This very much aligns with the social position of their core consumers.”

Indeed, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham responded to Ducey’s tweet with her own: “Hey Nike, let’s talk.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona Gov. Ducey drops plan to lobby for Nike plant after flag shoe pulled