Germany to redesign Adidas soccer jersey numbering amid Nazi symbol controversy

German soccer authorities will redesign the number “4” on the country’s national jerseys amid claims it resembles a logo used by Nazi paramilitary units.

The German Football Association (DFB) made the announcement Monday after social media users began using an online customization service to create shirts bearing the number “44” — and pointing out the similarity to the Schutzstaffel, or SS, logo.

In a statement posted to X, the DFB said it had earlier submitted numbers 1 to 26 to European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, for review, and that “none of the parties involved saw any proximity to Nazi symbolism in the creation process of the jersey design.” The association said it was taking the matter “very seriously” and was developing “an alternative design” for the digit.

While 44 is not currently used by the German men’s or women’s teams, official uniform supplier Adidas allowed customers to personalize the jerseys with a number, from 00 to 99, and a name up to 10 letters long. The resulting images generated by Adidas’ online shop were then widely shared online.

Jonathan Tah, who plays for Germany, is seen in the jersey during a friendly match with France in March.
Jonathan Tah, who plays for Germany, is seen in the jersey during a friendly match with France in March. Markus Gilliar/GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

According to Reuters, Adidas spokesperson Oliver Bruggen earlier told German media that the sportswear giant would “block the number 44 as quickly as possible,” adding: “As a company we actively oppose xenophobia, anti-Semitism, violence and hatred in any form.”

As of Tuesday, the option to customize the German team’s jerseys had been removed from Adidas’ websites, though it remains in place for other nations’ uniforms. Adidas did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on its decision or whether the personalization service will return without the number 4.

The DFB unveiled Germany’s new uniforms, which will be worn by both men’s and women’s teams, in late March. The men’s team debuted the jerseys during a match against France, and they are set to be worn at the 2024 UEFA European Championship, which is being hosted by Germany this summer.

Less than two weeks ago, the DFB announced that Nike will take over from Adidas as the German soccer team’s official shirt supplier from 2027. Adidas has produced the country’s jerseys since the 1950s, during which time the men’s team (either as Germany or West Germany) has claimed four World Cups.

The decision by Adidas to block personalization of the shirts comes after many on social media pointed out the numbers’ resemblance to the controversial SS insignia.

The SS was founded by Adolf Hitler and was described as the Nazi Party’s “political soldiers.” It assumed various policing, security and military roles, including overseeing the Gestapo. By the time the Nazis came to power, it had grown from a small unit of under 300 people into an organization of over 50,000. It later became associated with some of the worst crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II — including running concentration camps, such as Auschwitz.

An example of the SS logo as seen on a historical uniform at the Deutsches Museum in Sonderburg, Denmark.
An example of the SS logo as seen on a historical uniform at the Deutsches Museum in Sonderburg, Denmark. Gregor Fischer/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

The group’s lighting-like logo was designed by German graphic designer Walter Heck, who later joined the SS having previously been a commander in the Nazi’s paramilitary wing, the Sturmabteilung (SA).

Like many Nazi symbols, Heck’s logo was based not on ancient runes (as often mythologized by Hitler) but on a pseudo-rune created by Austrian occultist Guido von List in the early 20th century. The logo was so widely used at the time that some German typewriters were produced with a stylized “SS” key.

Source: CNN

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