Last night I heard the news of Nike’s great cave. The giant shoe company was set to release a version of their Air Max 1 sneakers decked out for July 4th. Colored red, white, and blue, with Betsy Ross’s colonial flag stitched on the back, they were perfect for celebrating America and our freedom. Then one voice called out “Racist” and Nike pulled the shoes. In their continuing subservience to Colin Kaepernick, as soon as he said “No” to the shoes the multi-national corporation said, “Yes sir.”
For most of the morning, I’ve wrestled through many different ideas for how I could approach this event. However, most of them were not overly kind, and none of them were elevated to that “ambassador of Christ” standard I talked about a couple weeks ago in my sermon. So, instead I’m going to let the measured words of two other men speak my heart. The first is Arizona Governor Doug Ducey who has vowed to pull all incentive money designated to bring Nike to his state. The second is classic Paul Harvey reminding us of the price paid for our independence (if you’d like to watch Harvey read a longer version, you may do so here).
“Today was supposed to be a good day in Arizona, with the announcement of a major Nike investment in Goodyear, AZ. And then this news [about Nike pulling the shoes] broke yesterday afternoon. Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike. Nike is an iconic American brand and American company. This country, our system of government and free enterprise have allowed them to prosper and flourish. Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it. Nike has made its decision and now we’re making ours. I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here. Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history. And finally, it shouldn’t take a controversy over a shoe for our kids to know who Betsy Ross is. A founding mother. Her story should be taught in all American schools. In the meantime, it’s worth googling her.”
THEY PAID THE PRICE
July 4, 1974
Americans, you know the 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence that first 4 of July–you know they were risking everything, don’t you?–’cause if they won their war with the British, there’d be years of hardship and a struggling nation. If they lost they’d face a hangman’s noose. And yet there where it says, “We herewith pledge, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor,” they did sign. But did you know that they paid the price?
When Carter Braxton of Virginia, signed the Declaration of Independence, he was a wealthy planter and trader; but thereafter he saw his ships swept from the seas and to pay his debts, he lost his home and all of his property and he died in rags.
Thomas Lynch, Jr., who signed that pledge, was a third generation rice grower and aristocrat–a large plantation owner–but after he signed his health failed. With his wife he set out for France to regain his failing health. Their ship never got to France; he was never heard from again.
Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five times in five months. He served in Congress without pay, his family in poverty and in hiding.
Vandals looted the properties of Ellery and Clymer and Hall and Gwinett and Walton and Heyward and Rutledge and Middleton. And Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia raised two million dollars on his own signature to provision our allies, the French fleet. After the War, personally he paid back the loans, wiped out his entire estate; he was never reimbursed by his government. And in the final battle for Yorktown, he, Nelson, urged General Washington to fire on his, Nelson’s own home, then occupied by Cornwallis. And he died bankrupt. Thomas Nelson, Jr. had pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor.
The Hessians seized the home of Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey. Francis Lewis had his home and everything destroyed, his wife imprisoned–she died within a few months. Richard Stockton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, pledging his life and his fortune, was captured and mistreated, and his health broken to the extent that he died at 51. And his estate was pillaged.
Thomas Heyward, Jr. was captured when Charleston fell. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside while she was dying; their thirteen children fled in all directions for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves and returned home after the War to find his wife dead, his children gone, his properties gone. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Lewis Morris saw his land destroyed, his family scattered. Philip Livingston died within a few months of hardships of the War.
John Hancock, history remembers best, due to a quirk of fate–that great sweeping signature attesting to his vanity, towers over the others–one of the wealthiest men in New England, he stood outside Boston one terrible night of the War and said, “Burn Boston, ‘though it makes John Hancock a beggar, if the public good requires it.” He, too, lived up to the pledge.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few were long to survive, 5 were captured by the British and tortured before they died, 12 had their homes–from Rhode Island to Charleston–sacked and looted, occupied by the enemy or burned. Two of them lost their sons in the Army; one had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 died in the War from its hardships or from its more merciful bullets. I don’t know what impression you’d had of these men who met that hot summer in Philadelphia, but I think it’s important this July 4, that we remember this about them: they were not poor men, they were not wild-eyed pirates; these were men of means, these were rich men, most of them, who enjoyed much ease and luxury in personal living. Not hungry men, prosperous men, wealthy land owners, substantially secure in their prosperity. But they considered liberty–this is as much I shall say of it–they had learned that liberty is so much more important than security, that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. And they fulfilled their pledge–they paid the price, and freedom was born.
Paul Harvey, good day.