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Northwestern uniform draws controversy

Posted: 11/06/13 at 5:50 pm
Tags: NBC   Northwestern University   Veterans Day   Uniforms  

UNDATED (NBC) -- The special uniforms Northwestern football players plan to wear next week against Michigan are evoking strong reaction for the literal way they have drawn attention to a patriotic cause.

The Wildcats plan to trade in their usual purple uniform for a stars-and-stripes outfit that some say looks like it's splattered with blood. The Under Armour jerseys will be auctioned off after the Nov. 16 game, with all proceeds benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.

While some fans praised the attention being called to an organization that aids service members injured in battle, others have called the uniform a desecration of the American flag.

The special uniforms feature what looks like a blood-splattered pattern on the the jersey's shoulders, the helmets, gloves and cleats. The school’s “N” remains on the helmets and on the pants, but instead of having player names written on the back of the jerseys, one of the following words will be featured: duty, honor, courage, commitment, integrity, country, or service.

The pattern on the team's special uniforms were "inspired by the appearance of a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time," said Paul Kennedy, a spokesman for Northwestern University's athletic department. "We certainly apologize for any misinterpretation."

Under Armour also defended the bold patterns, saying they are "meant to celebrate our military personnel and were inspired by images of actual American flags that have been flown around the world in harsh conditions." The company said the designs were meant as a tribute to the "indomitable spirit" of the nation and its servicemen.

"The suggestion that these uniforms are depicting streaks of blood is completely false and uninformed. Under Armour will continue to support the military in the most respectful, visible and meaningful ways possible," the company said in a statement.

Reaction to the uniform on the football team's Facebook page was mainly positive.

"I LOVE these uniforms!!" wrote Aaron Houghton, a veteran of multiple wars who said he understood the concern of people who found the outfits distasteful. "I understand but in order to bring attention to the cause is it not appropriate to wear a direct symbol of what the program is representing? The blood of our soldiers has been spilled in defense of the flag that we swore a solemn oath to defend."

But Rick Hill thought the look went too far.

“I wish there was a ‘don’t like’ button for stuff like this,” he wrote in his Facebook comment. “I appreciate the cause. The uniforms are gaudy. However I will save final judgment for when I see them in person.”

On Twitter, reaction was mixed. Wounded veteran John Kriesel called the uniform "hideous." But when Esquire called them a “horrific gaffe” in a tweet, the magazine drew mostly negative reaction.

While discussing the uniforms Wednesday, TODAY anchors noted the intent behind the uniform was respectful.

“Their heart is in the right place,” Tamron Hall said.

But Al Roker said he had a difficult time with the design.

“Growing up, you did not do anything to deface the flag," he said. "You didn’t alter it, you didn’t do anything to it."

Matt Lauer felt designers may not have intended to stir controversy with their design.

“It’s about graphics. Graphics are so popular on every item — on sneakers today," he said, noting graphics are what catch his young son's eye. "I see it all the time. I think it is an unintended result here.”

 

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