The idea of a football team wearing American-flag themed uniforms to honor the military and raise money for troops is hardly radical or revolutionary these days, so Under Armour, which prides itself on challenging Nike’s ability to produce outlandish uniforms that will get everyone talking, apparently felt it had to breech new ground when it decided to take the Team America idea to Northwestern.
So this weekend, for a game against Michigan, Northwestern will wear jerseys draped in an American flag motif featuring what appear to be blood splatters:
It’s important to remember that Under Armour likes controversy with its uniforms. People take jerseys seriously, and the more outlandish the jersey the more likely it is to draw nationwide attention. Nike figured that out years ago. Under Armour is latest to the trend. Most times, that leads to outrageous but harmless jerseys like the monstrosities Maryland has worn over the past few seasons. Sometimes it leads to this. And while Under Armour maintains that the streaks aren’t meant to look like blood but are instead supposed to provide “an authentic distressed pattern which depicts a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time,” I find it hard to believe that’s what anyone sees when they look at those jerseys. I find it equally hard to believe no one at Under Armour or Northwestern raised similar concerns somewhere in the production process.
That everyone is now talking about these uniforms is great for Under Armour, and maybe it’s great for the cause they’re supposed to benefit too. Northwestern will auction off the jerseys after the game, donating 100 percent of proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises money to help veterans access health and other services upon returning from combat (only 10 percent of proceeds from replica jersey sales go to the project, however).
We should raise as much as we can for the troops returning from combat, especially since our country is far more eager to send them to war than it is to take care of them when they get home. But it seems obvious to me that we can do so without coming up with gimmicks like this. Doing it that way wouldn’t generate half the attention to football uniforms or the company that makes them, but it wouldn’t trivialize the brutalities those troops face and the blood that is spilled in actual battle either.