Adidas pulls German national team jerseys with number 4, due to use of Nazi Symbol

An alternative jersey with the number four will be designed and made available for sale, according to the German Football Association.
One of the German National Team Jerseys made by Adidas with the offensive symbol of the Nazi SS unit.
One of the German National Team Jerseys made by Adidas with the offensive symbol of the Nazi SS unit. / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

Soccer fans around the world show their national pride by buying and wearing the kit, or uniform of their national team.

Adidas, a company that makes the uniforms for most national teams, has halted production of customized German jerseys with the numbers 4 or 44. The numerical designs look too much like the lightning bolt symbol used by the Nazi SS units in World War II.

The German Football Association (DFB) announced Monday that it would redesign the font used on its soccer jerseys after comparisons were drawn to a Nazi symbol, which is outlawed in Germany.

The manufacturer has blocked the personalization of German National Team jerseys with the number four. They are redesigning the jersey numerals to make them look more like a number and not like an offensive symbol.

I find it offensive that Adidas took so long to pull the jerseys from circulation. After their debacle with Kanye West and how it took them so long to distance themself from the then self-proclaimed antisemite, one would have thought that Adidas would have gotten ahead of this problem sooner rather than later.

Adidas should be ostracized for not catching this earlier and getting too close for comfort in selling and manufacturing something that could evoke the images of the Holocaust. As for the ‘SS’ ensign and the swastika, all symbols of the Third Reich have long been banned in Germany by law. They should have seen it in the mock-ups before the first jersey was sold.

Named after its German Founder, Adi Dassler, Adidas saw Dassler join the National Socialist Party in 1933, the year that Adolph Hitler came to power. There is nothing to suggest that Adidas or Dassler had any antisemitic ideologies, but his membership was strictly for business purposes and commercial motives. Adidas had a heightened obligation of care to disassociate themselves from antisemitism and they failed in this instance.

An Adidas spokesperson told NBC News that it categorically denied any suggestion that it had intended for the design to resemble the offensive symbol used by the Schutzstaffel group, a paramilitary organization associated with Adolph Hitler's Third Reich. The group was well known as the organization that operated the concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Kai Arzheimer, a professor of politics at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, said that the numerals are offensive and that the jersey should be pulled from the market.

""Even a resemblance between the style of this number '44' and the SS insignia is clearly enough to pull this jersey from the market.""

Kai Arzheimer, professor of politics

Adidas obviously agreed in a statement released to the media.

""Any attempts to promote divisive or exclusionary views are not part of our value as a brand. German soccer officials and their partner 11teamsports were responsible for the design of the names and numbers.""

Statement made by Adidas

Many people went online to voice their concerns over the design and that led the soccer manufacturer to ban the numbers.

The SS served as an "instrument of oppression" for the Nazis and was responsible for operating the concentration camps across Germany according to Ursula Munch, a professor of political science at the University of Bundeswehr Munich. Munch added that the number 44 on the jersey could be read as the "rune signs for the letters 'SS'" as used in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The symbols of the SS are banned in Germany, but not in the United States. The SS unit, according to the Washington Post, was the unit most responsible for overseeing and administering the Nazis' crimes against humanity, including the genocide of six million Jews.

The German Football Association posted on Twitter that it had checked the numbers zero to nine and submitted the numbers one to 29 to the Union of European Football Associations for review. NBC News wrote that it said that "None of the parties involved saw any proximity to the Nazi symbolism in the creation process of the jersey design."

I find it hard to believe that no one could look at the number four and see that it looked like a lightning bolt. That is offensive in and of itself.

The white jerseys will be worn by the German soccer team in the Euro 2024 soccer championship in June. The Federation has not issued any statement as to whether or not anyone on the national team will be using any variation of the number four.

The Germans do have alternative pink uniforms and those numerals have no negative connotation. Hopefully, they will wear the pink kits more often than the offensive white ones that evoke antisemitic thoughts.

Incidentally, the German Federation, announced last month that it is ending its relationship with Adidas and will partner with Nike due to financial decisions.

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