A committee dedicated to electing Republicans to the House of Representatives is under fire after one of its attack ads darkened the skin of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The National Republican Congressional Committee emailed the ad to supporters to sell a mug featuring a 1976 version of the American flag created by 18th century upholsterer Betsy Ross.
Republicans state in the ad Yahoo News obtained:
“WHO DO YOU STAND WITH? DONALD TRUMP AND THE BETSY ROSS FLAG OR ANTI-AMERICAN FLAG COLIN KAEPERNICK.”
The ad features an edited version of Kaepernick taking a knee during the pregame performances of the national anthem to protest police brutality, and it references the activist’s opposition to what he’s characterized as the slavery-era flag featuring 13 stars in a circle to represent the 13 states that comprised the United States at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. (The United States flag would continue to add more stars as more states were admitted to the union throughout the era of slavery.)
Kaepernick advised Nike, which had planned to sell a gym shoe with that version of the flag on it for the Fourth of July, that that symbolism could evoke associations with slavery for African-Americans. Additionally, some have claimed that white supremacists have used the flag to protest increasing diversity on the United States.
The company subsequently pulled the shoe dubbed Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July.
Related: Nike Market Value Rises $3B After Colin Kaepernick Has Betsy Ross Shoes Removed
“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,” Nike said in a statement earlier this month.
In a Twitter message, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to fire the people responsible for the GOP ad.
“Dear @GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy: I served with you in the California legislature and now in Congress. I do not believe you are a racist,” Lieu says. “If the below is true, then I hope you will fire those who were responsible.”
Vote Vets, an advocacy organization for veterans, also spoke out on Twitter.
“If the @NRCC intentionally darkened. @Kaepernick7’s skin, then forget apologies — they ought to be forced to explain to America why they believe darker skin makes someone look worse, in their eyes,” the organization says. “Any answer they could give would be un-American.”