Under Armour takes hit for Northwestern uniform

Northwestern’s relationship with Under Armour has been a very, very successful one.

The Wildcats became one of Under Armour’s premiere featured teams for their uniforms, designed a jersey that was largely liked by players, fans and fashion critics. And the Wildcats embraced the whole culture and attitude that comes with the new apparel provider. At least, as much as you can.

NU likes the notoriety and the buzz these jerseys generate. Wins matter more of course.

This is a bye week, though, and the biggest news from Northwestern is the unveiling of a new Wounded Warriors Project jersey from Under Armour that Northwestern will wear next Saturday against Michigan. The special jerseys are usually a time to celebrate and make a little extra money in merchandise sales (although a good chunk of the profits from sales of these jerseys will go to support Wounded Warriors Project, a very worthy and celebrated cause).

The uniforms have drawn a fair amount of criticism for some oversights in the design that have come to offend some soldiers and their families. Articles and news reports have sprung up with opinions on the jerseys and the running paint that does kind of look like blood spatter from Deadspin to The Huffington Post to San Francisco’s KTVU.

Both Under Armour and Northwestern issued apologies for any confusion regarding the jerseys. They flat out said they did not mean to offend and did not consider the possibility that others would consider this to be blood spatter, or anything like that. As the Associated Press noted, Boston College wore very similar uniforms last year with the same “running colors” design.

Our pal Jon Davis (aka @NUHighlights) provided his thoughts on a controversy that really is not one. He captures the sentiment pretty well. Neither Under Armour nor Northwestern would do something to offend veterans intentionally. Especially considering Under Armour has a strong relationship with Wounded Warrior Project and has done this kind of a partnership in the past and have done other promotional partnerships in the past. It is clear Under Armour’s intentions are nothing but pure and they would not do something that would alienate one of their biggest philanthropic partnerships.

Of course, veterans and their family’s are a large group. What might offend one group or subset might offend another. All you can do is say, “Sorry, we did not mean to offend,” and move on. Both NU and Under Armour have done that.

And there is a bit of buzz-generation that comes with jerseys. Even if it is negative, people are talking about Northwestern and about these jerseys. That is something of a win for both NU and Under Armour in staying in the public consciousness. It is also a moneymaker too with the opportunity to sell new jerseys. I have been told that Let’s Tailgate has already sold out of the new jersey. It appears enough fans feel OK enough with these uniform to throw down $60-$70 to have one of their own.

This “controversy” though loses sight on what is most important and the whole reason Northwestern agreed to eliminate any shred of purple for a week. This is all to raise money for Wounded Warrior Project. That is where there might be a more interesting debate and controversy over these uniforms. Only about 10 percent of the sales of the uniforms will go to Wounded Warrior Project. The auction of the game-worn jerseys will all go to Wounded Warrior.

UPDATE: Darren Rovell of ESPN is reporting Northwestern will donate its entire cut of the jersey sales to Wounded Warrior Project.

The execution of this plan to honor and recognize veterans — how else can a football team do this beside wearing uniforms and raising some kind of awareness, right? — may not have been the best. There are certainly still some issues to be resolved. The intent is a good one though.

The intent is a very good one though. And we have no reason to think Northwestern does not mean what it intends.

So let’s push aside the controversy and by kickoff next Saturday recognize these jerseys for what they really are and what Northwestern and Under Armour intend them to be.

  • Chasmo

    America is a country whose citizens get outraged over the wrong things and this uniform flap is just the latest example.
    I guess the “offended” interpret the blue streaks as blood from sliced veins and the red streaks as blood from sliced arteries (or is it the other way around) and so this design reminds us that soldiers are killed and maimed in war and so that’s bad because we should always see war as good?
    We could be outraged over having conducted the disastrous Iraq war, or having the worse income inequality in the western world, or being the only western country to not have universal health care, or seeing the cost of a college education rise at twice the rate of inflation, or watching the slow destruction of the planet by climate change, or having a dysfunctional federal government, or enduring any number of issues that actually affect our every day lives.
    But instead, we’re encouraged to get outraged over a football team’s uniforms.

    • tsk tsk.

      I agreed with everything until you got into your liberal rant. Downvote.

      • Chasmo

        Liberal rant? It was actually a list of facts.
        Now if you want to argue that income inequality, people dying from treatable conditions due to lack of health insurance, people being unable to afford a college education, rising sea levels, and a dysfunctional government are all good things (or at least really don’t matter) be my guest. Perhaps you can make a strong argument.
        But it was simply a list of facts.

    • Mark

      @Chasmo. Agree. And these attempts to show “patriotism” and “support for the troops” by the use of football jerseys are, although maybe not readily apparent, related to the other issues you brought up, especially the Iraq War. One of the arguments made in Andrew Bacevich’s book, he’s a former general and teaches now at BU, is that the public’s indifference to the “professional army” leaves most Americans without any skin in the game re wars and we make no sacrifices during the wars cooked up by our leaders. These facile shows of patriotism are not really patriotism or support for the troops, no matter how Under Armour or the marketing people at the universities want to characterize them. Bacevich’s book also ties this devotion to the professional army and its private contractors to some of the other issues you brought up – increasing inequality and lack of health care generally available in all other western countries at half the price.

      @PRR You talk about the good “intent” of different parties. You have to realize that it’s a problem when you want others to judge you by your intent but you generally judge others, probably more accurately or appropriately, by their actions.

      These uniforms are also related John U. Bacon’s point in Fourth And Long about the marketing people to reigning supreme in the world of college football. The objections in mainstream media about these uniforms are from people whose relatives were killed fighting for the U.S. – they don’t think the uniforms show “patriotism” or “support of the troops.” They only remind them of the sacrifices made by their family members.

      • Hudhaifa3

        Stop pushing that damn book on us. That is the 3rd time. Read it again if you like…

        • Mark

          OK. No more.

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        My point on intent was that if the football program wants to honor the military in some way they have few ways to do it. This is still a money-making venture for UA and NU. NU took the big step of donating all their profits from jersey sales to Wounded Warrior. I agree, though, that there are better ways to do this and that the flap is a bit overblown. In the end, money and marketing drive everything in this sport.

      • cece

        Bacon’s book is wonderful.

  • Richard

    How about fixing the illegible numbers on the road jerseys?

  • skepticat

    Media coverage of this has been as facile, sensationalist, and irresponsibly-parroted as the Cal game flopping “controversy”. Several seconds of due diligence (e.g., actually LOOK at the uniforms) would have made it spit-in-your-eye obvious it’s not splattered blood on the uniforms. Then again, “media” and “due diligence” in today’s age are increasingly mutually-exclusive terms.

    • PBRCat

      This is probably the stupidest controversy since the media had athletes dying by playing football with short end zones at Wrigley Field where the Chicago Bears played for almost fifty years. The uniform will be used once and then auctioned off as sports memorabilia. End of story.
      Of course, all of the offended types support the military while disagreeing with the USA.

  • AlanG69

    I still don’t like them, and not because of the fake blood or other nonsense. Can we focus on football for once or has our media department taken over?

    • CEBPD


  • calling all toasters

    Once a month we mess around with our uniforms for the sake of marketing (and patriotism!) and still we don’t pay the players? I hope Colter comes out to one game wearing a picture of some kid of his choosing who could use a scholarship, plastered all over where his number should go. Or just put up his Paypal-enabled email.

    Oh, that’s right, it’s only OK if it’s in the context of the team something something mumble mumble….

    • Bob Parkman

      Maybe if we didn’t change the uniforms so much, our QBs could spot the receivers better and complete more passes.

  • Bob Parkman

    As football is a contact sport and injuries do occur, the parts that look like blood spatters represent a problem – how are players, coaches, or referees going to distinguish REAL blood and fulfill the obligation to remove the player from the field if they are bleeding?

    • obvi

      comparing one jersey to another, obvi

      • Bob Parkman

        I doubt the blood spatter/distressing will be identical from uniform to uniform, because the coloration is part of the fabric manufacturing process. they don’t paint ’em after they stitch the uniforms. when they cut out parts to make each uniform, the spatter patterns should vary.

    • Dohsan

      Well, they don’t (or rarely) remove players now due to bleeding (unless a player is gushing blood), despite what the rules say, so I don’t see this as a concern.

  • NUMBalumDave

    At this point in the whole controversy my only remaining concern is that the ‘Cats seem to do poorly whenever metric tons of hype surround the game.

    Keep calm and play on.

  • “A good chunk” = 10% of the proceeds from the replica jerseys. People are better off donating directly to WWP instead of buying these tacky, tasteless, generic superhero jerseys.

    • hudhaifa3

      100% of the auction…..You know UA will make some money. Straight Cash Homie..

  • cardiac cat fan

    Until we start winning again I think we should play in Champion sponsored uniforms to serve as motivation.

  • cece

    pr screwup? or brilliant move to distract from the story of the team doing badly? still want the players to keep their uniforms. the money from the worn jerseys just plays into the “please pay us” narrative.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      These jerseys were planned at the beginning of the season. I am sure Under Armour thought NU-Michigan would be a 2:30 ABC game instead of a 2:30 BTN game.

      • cece

        the design controversy has been fanned.

  • WildcatUSMC

    I agree that the reaction to this is way overblown. If you’ve read some of my past posts, I’d understand if you are tired of me talking about Vietnam (and I wasn’t born until ’83). But the kind of stuff we are seeing here partly stems from an effort to right the wrongs of the way vets were treated after Vietnam. People may not see it, but that war had a deep psychological impact on the country, and we’re still seeing some of the effects. The folks who served there were drafted. They didn’t even have a choice in the matter, but came back to a country that treated them like crap. Since then, we’ve realized that was a mistake and have tried to make up for it.

    That is why we’re seeing all this “Support the Troops” stuff, that often comes across as saccharine or pandering. But generally, I appreciate the good intent behind it.

    Consequently, this “Support the Troops” attitude, has emboldened a very small number of veterans to have an overblown sense of entitlement, and to use the whole “I’m a vet, I served,” thing as a trump card for everything. They say stuff like, “As a veteran” or “As the mother of a veteran, I can say that I’m outraged by this,” even when there’s nothing to be outraged about. But, people who act like that probably would still act similar, even if they didn’t have an association with the military. Serving the country is a higher calling, but it doesn’t make you better than your fellow citizens or the nation you vowed to defend.

    That being said, if you were wounded in combat or have psychological wounds, then you should be entitled to the very best healthcare, as well as employment, and other benefits. But the number of vets in this category is a small percentage. Wounded Warrior serves a great cause.

    This Sunday, November 10th, marks the 238th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. If you happen to see a Marine this weekend, wish him or her a Happy Birthday. It’ll really motivate them! Go ‘Cats. Beat Michigan. Semper Fi.

  • Blackhawksteve

    Maybe the liberal/socialist/communist professors at our prestigious universities could take a pay cut to lesson the cost of a college education. I’m sure that would help!

    • Chasmo

      While your adjectives make you appear very foolish — “communist”? Really? — your point is not without merit. The huge increase in salary enjoyed by top college administrators and, yes, professors, in the past 40 years is indeed one of the factors that has resulted in college tuition going up at twice the rate of inflation.

  • PurpleHayes

    Of all posts, LTP, why leave this one in the headline slot for longer than probably any other post in recent memory? You do a great job flooding us with content, and for some reason it seems some of your best material gets overlaid with a new post an hour later. My only opinion on this one is “Let’s move on”–when I saw it, I hoped something else would take its place a few minutes later, but now here we are and still gnawing on this bone, with opinions polarizing rather than coalescing. I realize it’s a FB bye week, but how about a Steven Buckley update, scouting report on EIU basketball, or the golf team traveling someplace warm? Anything welcome. Thanks!

  • hudhaifa3

    I’ve talked to a few of the players. They love the idea of the jerseys. They love all the other uniform combinations too. It’s the 40 and up crowd that can’t handle it. Guess what……Recruits are 17 and 18….Not 40. So get over it…The uniforms aren’t going anywhere…

  • vaudvillain

    I bought one and will wear it to the game.

  • Paul

    Under Fitz the association between NU football and patriotism has gotten out of control. This isn’t Army, let’s just play some damn football.

    • PT

      Hogwash. It’d be one thing if they were doing this every game, but this coincides with Veteran’s Day, so it makes total sense. If you watched the NFL games this weekend, you’d see that almost all those teams are wearing something to in honor of Vet’s Day as well. So, it’s not like it’s just Fitz who’s the only one. It’s a normal thing to do. Plus patriotism isn’t something just for “Army,” but should be displayed to some degree by everyone. One of the main reasons we haven’t seen a major world war since 1945 is because the U.S. maintains a strong military and stations it abroad to act as a deterrent. This, in turn, contributes greatly to the peace and prosperity we enjoy at home.

  • cece

    The “did not intend to offend” sentiment covers all bases. except one…..what were you thinking? think things through and see that many would be offended. of course we know you did not intend to offend. but, you did. shouldn’t we be more thoughtful in execution of effort?

  • Conquest Lakeshia

    I bet if Tom Brady wore this it would be okay. As if being a troop is only positive. America uses troops as if they a cargo, then they throw many away. Many troops blood is shed. This is a fact. Instead we try to mask pain & only show glory..This uniform is hot….