The Evolving Interpretations Of The Gadsden Flag


          The trope I chose for this assignment is the Gadsden Flag which reads “Don’t Tread On Me.” The three images of the variants that follow the original flag below are similar but different due to their design and usage in other settings. The rattlesnake is supposed to be a treating symbol placed above or around another image, almost like it is protecting it.

Original Trope

Description: The flag above is an original image of the Gadsden Flag. It can easily be referenced because of its bold yellow background, rattlesnake, and capital letters that read “Don’t Tread On Me.” The snake has thirteen rattles to resemble the original thirteen colonies of the United States of America. The Gadsden Flag was created during the American Revolution by Christopher Gadsden, a politician and slave owner from South Carolina. The ready-to-strike snake was a symbol for American independence from Britain and now is a badge for gun rights. Although the flag was an important symbol for the new America, it has recently received plenty of criticism and has a handful of different versions. 

Trope 1

Description: In the image above, a protester raises a Gadsden Flag variant during a Black Lives Matter protest in Columbus, Ohio, on June 1st. The protest comes days after the horrific killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This Gadsden Flag variation boasts the symbolic rattlesnake and “Don’t Tread On Me” written below. The background color is black to resemble the African-American community. On this flag, the rattlesnake is protecting the African American community and is a symbol to show that they are ready-to-strike against those suppressing them.

Trope 2

Description:The image above comes from a current eBay listing. Nike has taken down all their official photos of the jersey. A variant of the Gadsden Flag was used on the 2010 United States Men’s National Soccer Team’s home jersey. The kit was unveiled on April 29th, 2010, in Beaverton, Oregon, at Nike’s World Headquarters. The symbol was located on the inside of the jersey, behind the U.S. Soccer Federations crest, facing and lying upon the athlete’s chest. The Gadsden Flag’s use draws inspiration from the United States upsetting the favored England team in 1950. The symbol shows the recognizable rattlesnake covered by a banner with “DTOM.” It is also located on the inside of the collar, above the jersey size. It is a smaller and more subtle version that includes the rattlesnake wrapping itself around a soccer ball. Nike thought it would be fitting to add the Gadsden Flag because it was unveiled before the World Cup where the United States team would be playing England. 

          Now that the “Don’t Treat On Me” slogan and snake image have evolved into an offensive subject, Nike has taken down every official image of theirs that contained the items. When Google searching “Nike DTOM jerseys,” the page pulls up a handful of Nike custom jersey creation sites. If one clicks on images, the search bar immediately changes to “Nike custom jerseys.”

Trope 3

Description: The screenshot above contains a tweet and image from Chelsea Edwards, a Channel 11 reporter of ABC 7 News Channel in Los Angeles, California. The photo was taken in Western Hollywood in June of 2016 after a Pride Parade on the 10th through the 12th. On this variant of the Gadsden Flag, the rattlesnake sits above a different slogan than the original. On this version, it states “#shootback” in front of a rainbow background. The rainbow background is a stamp of the gay community. This poster’s creator chose to replace “Don’t Tread On Me” with “#shootback” to show that the LGBT community is taking a stand against those opposing them. 


  • Staff, TMZ. “Chris Pratt’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ Shirt Has White Supremacy Ties and Stirs Debate.” TMZ, TMZ, 17 July 2019, 
  • “U.S. National Team Kits Debut.” Nike News, 29 Apr. 2010, 
  • Walker, Rob, et al. “The Shifting Symbolism of the Gadsden Flag.” The New Yorker,
  • Paul Bruski Associate Professor of Graphic Design. “Yellow Gadsden Flag, Prominent in Capitol Takeover, Carries a Long and Shifting History.” The Conversation, 25 Jan. 2021, 
  • Edwards, Chelsea. “Posters Featuring Rainbow Version of Gadsden Flag & Message to #Shootback Creating Controversy in #Weho. @ABC7” Twitter, Twitter, 16 June 2016, 
  • “Los Angeles Event Spotlight: June 2016.” Discover Los Angeles,,snazzy%20floats%20and%20upbeat%20music. 
  • Leah Sottile Image credit: Jason Holley May 18, 2020 From the print edition. “The Gadsden Flag Is a Symbol. But Whose?” High Country News – Know the West, 18 May 2020,
  • Downing, Andy. “The 2020 Black Lives Matter Protests in Columbus.” Columbus Alive, Columbus Alive, 28 Dec. 2020,


Discussion — One Response

  • Maddy Kelly 03/02/2021 on 1:36 PM

    I was so excited to read this post, especially as the Gadsden Flag has been prevalent in the media lately. It’s interesting to see the flag’s oppressive history reapplied by the communities it historically oppressed, and I didn’t know about the Nike jersey controversy!

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