Part of the special design to be worn by Northwestern University football players on Nov. 16. Facebook.com/UnderArmourFootball
Special uniforms that Northwestern University’s football team will wear on Nov. 16 have sparked controversy because of red streaks across the flag-themed patterns that look like blood to many observers.
The school and the uniform’s manufacturer, Under Armour, say the design was inspired by “the appearance of a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time.” The uniforms worn by players are to be auctioned after the team’s game against Michigan, with proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project that assists wounded veterans and their families.
Many commenters on Under Armour’s Facebook page aren’t accepting that explanation.
“As a father of a U.S. Marine who has shed blood in combat in Afghanistan, I find this absolutely disgusting, insensitive, and disrespectful,” writes one, Scott Cooney.
“As a military spouse … I find your uniforms insensitive, offensive and shameful. There is nothing glamorous about wearing the blood splattered by your injured or fallen comrades,” writes another, Stephanie Lavezza Ferguson.
There are those who like the design. Bleacher Report columnist Jesse Reed thinks the uniforms are a “classy way to honor wounded warriors.”
At Inside Northwestern, an independent website that covers the school’s athletic programs, columnist Chris Johnson says that beyond the matter of whether the design is distasteful, there’s also the issue of how much money will be going to the Wounded Warrior Project.
The university says 100 percent of the proceeds from sales of the game-work jerseys will go to the project. There are estimates that could come to about $100,000. But Johnson writes, “only 10 percent of proceeds from [replica] jerseys sold online will go to the foundation. That number seems a bit small to some people.”
Daily Northwestern guest columnist Sean Lavery thinks Northwestern should “put its money where its mouth is and match — or double, or triple — the paltry 10 percent Under Armour is willing to part with on each jersey sale.”
CNN reports that Northwestern spokesman Paul Kennedy says the school apologizes “for any misinterpretation” of the intent behind the uniforms. CNN adds that:
“Under Armour’s chief spokesman, Matt Mirchin, [said] on Tuesday that the company designed the special uniforms, and both Northwestern and the Wounded Warriors Project were able to see the design and request changes. Neither did.”
Under Armour has posted 18 different images of the uniforms on Facebook. (Note at 1:45 p.m. ET: It has also said “the suggestion that these uniforms are depicting streaks of blood is completely false and uninformed.”)
Northwestern has put some photos on Twitter.
Update at 2 p.m. ET. Not The First Time:
It’s worth noting that Under Armour has been creating special NCAA football uniforms to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project since 2009 and that red splotches have been one of the design features before — on last year’s uniforms worn by Boston College and the University of Hawaii, for example. We aren’t finding stories from previous years about controversies similar to this year’s, though. Point us to them in the comments thread if you do.