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'Racist' Republican Ad Slammed For 'Darkening' Former NFL Star's Skin

The U.S. Republican Party has come under fire for a "racist" fundraising email which some believe features a purposefully altered photo of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

The email, sent out by the National Republican Congressional Committee this week, included a photo of Kaepernick next to President Donald Trump.

"Who do you stand with? Donald Trump and the Betsy Ross flag or anti-American flag Colin Kaepernick?" the message said, referencing Kaepernick's recent opposition to the use of a slavery-era flag on a pair of Nike shoes.

But the image of the former football player -- in which he is kneeling during the national anthem at a 2016 game -- appears to make his skin several shades darker than the original.

One Democratic operative described the ad as “disgusting.”

“House Republicans are running on racism, plain and simple. It’s disgusting, it’s offensive and it should be fireable, but there’s no accountability in the Republican Party,” the operative told Yahoo! News.

Democratic congressman Ted Lieu called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to fire those responsible for the ad if the design was intentional.

Republican officials insist the image was not purposefully altered.

“The photo was not darkened," NRCC communications director Chris Pack said in an emial to Yahoo!

Some Twitter users also suggested the image looked different because a filter had been used.

READ MORENike Cancels 'Racist' Sneaker Featuring Slavery-Era Flag After Colin Kaepernick Protest

Accusations of darkening the skin of African-Americans in political ads in a bid to appeal to racial prejudices is nothing new.

A study of negative ads against Barack Obama in the 2008 election determined that the campaign of Republican candidate John McCain consistently darkened Obama’s skin.

Image: Yahoo! News

The NRCC is dedicated to electing Republicans to the House of Representatives, drumming up funds and support for conservative candidates.

The committee's email also reportedly advertised a mug emblazoned with the Betsy Ross flag supporters would receive in exchange for a $25 donation.

Earlier this month, Nike announced it was pulling plans to release a red, white and blue version of its Air Max 1 sneakers ahead of the July 4 holiday.

READ MOREPeople Are Destroying Their Nikes Over Colin Kaepernick Campaign

According to The Wall Street Journal, the choice was made following concerns raised by Kaepernick -- who has an endorsement deal with Nike -- over the use of the 1770s era flag.

The Betsy Ross flag emerged at a time when lawmakers advocated for the expansion of slavery and formally declared that those born into slavery were slaves for life.'

Kaepernick has become a leading voice in the fight for racial equality in the United States.

The former NFL quarterback began kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality in 2016, and found himself without a team come 2017.