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Football Shirts Get Political Again, This Time in The United States

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Almost a month ago, I wrote about a case where a football shirt started a political storm in Germany. Now, it seems, the same is happening in the United States. A few years ago, as I was filling out my Panini album (a must during a World Cup year), I couldn’t help but lament the fact that both Turkey and the United States would not be playing. For the U.S. it is an even bigger failure (given the amount of money invested in football), and the squad will have to settle with appearing in a few pre-tournament warm-up matches. While the U.S. faced France on June 9 2018, a French friend texted me to ask “Why are the U.S. jerseys so hideous?”. I didn’t know what he meant, so I tuned in and took a look. Indeed, the jerseys were a little off…the numbering scheme was, for some reason, colored like a rainbow! The players looked like school children, and—as a shirt enthusiast—I cringed at the design. The problem, of course, is not the fact that the U.S. men’s national football team is supporting gay pride. The United States is a diverse nation, and its gay citizens are just as valuable as its straight citizens. Indeed, the only thing that should matter, in an international football match, is representing your country. In this case, the only thing that should matter is being American. And that is the issue with these shirts: it is an unnecessary distraction and the numbering color scheme represents the ongoing politicization of all spheres of culture—sports included—in the United States of America. It is certainly a slippery slope.

 

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Really? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/team-usa-ireland-pride-jerseys-friendly-dublin-484427761.html

 

The politicization of U.S. Soccer brings to mind the furious campaign by former star Eric Wynalda to become president of the U.S. Soccer federation. Mr. Wynalda, in the run up to his campaign, said all the right things. Indeed, he asked the right questions:

 

We have countries like Uruguay with 3.5 million people in the whole country. You have Iceland who’s beating England. They have more active volcanoes than coaches. We here have this massive undertaking. We have 350 million people [in this country] and we can’t figure out how to find 11? Really?

 

Sadly, however, U.S. Soccer would not listen, showing both the corporatization of football in the U.S. as well as the larger world. The mainstream media labeled him an “outsider” (the LA Times) and the New York Times—leaders of media manipulation as they are—chose to highlight his personal financial problems. The LA Times article identifies the main reason Mr. Wynalda has had trouble in the football world:

 

Multiple efforts to become an MLS head coach went nowhere, as his contemporaries with vanilla personalities were awarded positions. U.S. Soccer’s player of the decade in the 1990s, a veteran of three World Cups, became an outsider.

He wouldn’t encounter such obstacles in almost any other country, where strong if not downright defective personalities are accepted as byproducts of the creativity necessary to be a star player [Emphasis Added].

 

As football has become increasingly corporate in the age of industrial football, creative ideas—as is the case in most industries—have been discouraged. This is why Mr. Wynalda’s struggles are not just a “personal trouble”, to borrow the language of American Sociologist C. Wright Mills. Rather, they are representative of wider “social problems”: Industrial society in the United States has become reluctant to open itself to any ideas which challenge the dominant narratives, creating an environment which fosters one-dimensional thought in boardrooms across corporate America and in classrooms throughout the American education system.

 

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Eric Wynalda, A Patriot Who Has Become an Outsider In Our Brave New World. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/06/02/us-win-over-colombia-1994-world-cup-announced-were-here-stay

 

Of course, this is not the recipe for a successful country, a peaceful society, or even a functioning football association. We, as a society, have become used to allowing technocrats to shape all facets of our lives. The two candidates Mr. Wynalda ran against, Sunil Gulati and Carlos Cordeiro, were typical technocrats. The former is an economist who teaches at Columbia University; the latter is a former partner at Goldman Sachs. In fact, Mr. Cordeiro said he was the only candidate with  “the skills to help oversee an organization with a 170 person staff, a $110 million budget, a $150 million surplus, and more than four million players, coaches, and referees”. While these are of course important factors to consider, the fact is that these skills have absolutely nothing to do with football but everything to do with business. When profit becomes the main consideration, however, these are the qualities that come to the fore. In an uber-rationalized world—in the Weberian sense—an emotional former footballer like Mr. Wynalda is deemed unacceptable for the position; instead, it is investment bankers and economists who are the ones favored. And that is how we come to an absurd situation where the most important colors of a football shirt are not the national colors of a nation but those on back of the shirts.

 

The decision to allow rainbow colored numbers—in support of Pride month—drew outrage from many. In fact, it even made a footballer for the US Women’s national team abandon her dream of representing her country because her faith did not allow her to wear the “pride” shirt in question. Given this situation, it is easy to see that there is a problem here.

 

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Jaelene Hinkel Chose to Speak Up. Unfortunately, It Cost Her the Opportunity to Represent her Nation. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/team-usa-ireland-pride-jerseys-friendly-dublin-484427761.html

 

While gay pride should certainly be supported—gay individuals are equal citizens of the United States—there are ways to do this and, unfortunately, football shirts are not the place for this. Anything that willfully alienates people—gay or straight, religious or secular, male or female—from the larger community (in this case the nation) should not be supported by anyone who is truly tolerant. It seems that forcing footballers to wear jerseys which support a certain quasi-political message represents an egregious imposition of politics on sports. It is no different from the calls from gay individuals to boycott the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A ( https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lgbtq-eating-chick-fil-a_us_5b1fb4cee4b09d7a3d770c81 . No one, regardless of their sexual orientation, has a right to tell people where to eat. Encroaching onto people’s personal lives like this is a form of fascism, and cannot be tolerated by anyone who values the liberty and freedom of individual human life.

 

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One of the First Lessons of Sport is That the Name on the Front of the Jersey Matters More than the Name on the Back Of the Jersey. The Same Goes For the Colors of the Jersey. If We Truly are “One Nation” and “One Team”, as the Banner Suggests, then We Have No Choice but to Abandon the Divisive Virus of Identity Politics. Image Courtesy Of: https://gaynation.co/outrage-as-us-soccer-team-dons-rainbow-jersey-for-in-support-of-rainbow-community/

 

Perhaps if the US Soccer Federation had spent its time developing the football program—rather than catering to identity politics—the U.S. would have a team to root for in the World Cup. Instead, we see the regressive nature of progressive America as the quality of football suffers when technocrats choose politics over sport. The politicization of football shirts, therefore, clearly shows that authoritarianism knows no political allegiance; it can come as easily from the “left” as it can from the “right”. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book, so resist the divisions and stand up for your country!

 

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The Top World Cup 2018 Shirts: A Lesson in Late Stage Capitalism and Global Homogenization

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Four Years ago, I wrote a piece detailing my top picks among the 2014 kits and my choices for the top five classic world cup kits. With just seven days until the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia, I thought I would do the same. However, this year, the list will be a little more sociological than the one from four years ago.

Indeed, outlets like GQ have provided their rankings, as well as a slew of other websites; one need only search “top world cup shirts 2018” in order to be bombarded by hundreds of choices. This is why my list will not be so much as a ranking. Instead, it will be commentary on just how late stage capitalist logic—and one dimensional thought—invade every aspect of our lives. This invasion—similar to the colonization of the life world by the system, that Sociologist Jurgen Habermas has written about—is very evident in the world of football shirts.

For an introduction to the topic, please see my earlier post from 6 July 2017 here. In short, my argument is that when the logic of consumption drives the creative process, one dimensional thought becomes the norm. Designers and creative minds are unwilling—in fact, in some cases, they may even be scared—to stray from the “tried and true” methods. After all, these are the methods that have brought profit. Therefore, creativity is stifled by a dominant form of one dimensional thought which cannot stray from its own money-making logic.

This is why cars have started to look more and more the same, and why mobile (or cellular) telephones are virtually indistinguishable from one another regardless of if they are iPhones, Samsungs, Nokias, HTCs, LGs, or any other brand. As a human society, we have become used to images—we are obsessed with them, as Jean Baudrillard has said—and this means that our reality is more of a hyperreality dominated by these images. We know what a mobile phone should look like, anything that does not look like the image we have been grown used to cannot be a phone (think of flip-phone versus iPhone). Similarly, with cars, we see the same process. We have become used to what a “luxury” car should look like, so we cannot conceive of anything that does not look like what we expect (perhaps this is why Hyundais and Kias look virtually the same while also resembling more expensive brands like BMW and Audi).

 

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Which One Of These Is a Phone? Image Courtesy Of: https://thoughttamales.wordpress.com/tag/prepaid-cell/

 

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The Same Car? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.carwow.co.uk/blog/kia-sportage-vs-hyundai-tucson

Unfortunately, football shirts are not immune from this ongoing homogenization in the name of increasing consumption, and the latest World Cup shirt designs show this. More than a few of this year’s shirts bare a striking resemblance to older shirts, which makes for a very boring overall lineup.

 

Spain 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Spain’s 2018 shirt did not impress GQ, and this is perhaps because it is just a re-hashing of the country’s classic 1994 design.

 

Spain 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.branchofscience.com/2014/05/nineties-kits-usa-94-special-part-two/

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Colombia 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Another shirt that GQ didn’t like. Perhaps that is because this is just a modernized version of Adidas’ 1996 template; the antecedent of this shirt was perhaps Romania’s Euro 1996 shirt.

 

Romania 1996. Image Courtesy Of: https://thefootballshirtcollective.tumblr.com/post/142359500227/repost-199698-romania-home-shirt-from

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Mexico 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Mexico’s 2018 kit is not very imaginative (and has no resemblance to the beauties from 1998 which actually paid homage to Mexico’s Central American heritage). Instead, this kit seems to have been inspired by Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup Kit. I suppose that is globalism at its best; in 20 years Mexico went from gaining inspiration from their own history to gaining inspiration from…Bulgaria. Maybe it is due to the fact that both countries’ flags share the same tricolor, who knows.

 

Bulgaria 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2011/10/bulgaria-kits-world-cup-1994.html

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Germany 2018. Image Courtesy Of: : http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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While Germany’s shirt might be striking in this line up, it is merely a rehashing of the classic West Germany shirt from 1988. And, like so many shirts on this list, the new one is not as nearly as well designed as the old one. Indeed, sequels are never as good as the originals.

 

Germany 1988. Image Courtesy Of: http://hullcitykits.co.uk/meet-the-hck-staff/

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Nigeria 2018 (Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Nigeria’s new kit has been widely touted as one of the best in this year’s tournament. GQ calls it “eccentric”, and given that it is already sold out in the UK it goes to show that sometimes it pays to stray from one-dimensional thought. Yet, at the same time, even this shirt is not completely unique. When I first saw the shirt I couldn’t help but think that I had seem something like it before. Indeed, it bares some resemblance to Holland’s classic 1998 design and West Germany’s Euro 1988 Away kit as well as Northern Ireland’s 1990 Umbro shirt.

 

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Holland 1988. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.retrosyrarezas.com/products/holland-netherlands-mens-retro-soccer-jersey-euro-88-gullit-10-replica

 

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Germany 1988-1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2016/07/germany-kits-euro-1988.html

 

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Northern Ireland 1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://nifootball.blogspot.com/2006/10/iain-dowie.html

 

It is important to note that this list—and this criticism of the 2018 shirt line up—is not to say that respecting the past, and paying homage to past designs, is not a bad thing. Indeed, respecting the past and what has come before is a good thing. But this does not mean that we should be blind to the fact that, in the name of consumption, we are being sold the past back to us in the present. It means that while we—as consumers—are paying more and more for our products, while the designers may be getting less and less creative. And it also means that there is a very real double standard in world football when it comes to shirt designs.

I will leave this post with a comparison between the 1996 Turkey Home and Away shirts and the 2016 “Spider Man” home and away Turkish Kits. Perhaps, in this instance, the designers would have done well to seek some inspiration from the past. But even here, the “past” of 1996 still represented by an Adidas template.

 

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New vs. Old. I am not a fan of the new shirts at all. Image Courtesy of the Author.

 

In March 2018 a Turkish sports pundit, Mehmet Demirkol, came out threatening to take the Turkish FA to court if they did not return to the classic Turkish national shirt design. The classic design has been changed on and off for years, culminating in the monstrosity of the 2016 “Spider Man” kits. And it is here that I agree with Mr. Demirkol. There is such a thing as national symbols, and—as Mr. Demirkol argues—the football shirt is a national symbol. We do not see international corporations like Nike and Adidas playing with German, English, Brazilian, Dutch, or Argentine kits. No, such countries have been wearing similar designs for years. Indeed, as I pointed out, Germany has returned to a classic design for the 2018 World Cup. Yet countries like Mexico and Turkey have their kits played with—and their national heritages ignored—by the whims of global capital. In order to resist the ongoing global homogenization of global corporations and globalist ideas, it is important to respect your national heritage regardless of which country you come from. And, even when it comes to football shirts, we can still stand up for our countries in the face of globalism.

 

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The Classic “Red Stripe” Design Evoking the Turkish Flag. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/yazarlar/baris-kuyucu/17-yil-sonra-klasik-forma-1206165/

Football Shirts and Nationalism

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As an avid collector of football shirts, the headline “How a soccer jersey sparked the latest Germany-Turkey spat” of a 15 May 2018 article by Siobhan O’Grady in The Washington Post immediately caught my eye. As a dual citizen of a Western country (the United States) and Turkey, I felt the tensions that the footballers in question—both Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan—must have been feeling themselves. Especially because I study the intersection of football and nationalism in Turkey, I know that this event is about much more than just football shirts and Turkey’s fraught relationship with Germany; in fact, this small event is indicative of both the failures of globalism, as well as the crisis of modern—and “Western”—liberalism.

On the surface, the decision by Manchester City’s German-Turkish footballer Ilkay Gundogan to present a jersey to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the inscription “With great respect for my president” seems to be a minor issue. In years past it may have been but a footnote in the day’s news. Yet, in this age—when it seems as if most people are all too willing to be “offended”—something as innocuous as the gifting of a football shirt has become grounds for outrage. Indeed, as French Sociologist Michel Foucault said, “modern society is perverse”.

 

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From Left Mr. Gundogan, Mesut Ozil, Mr. Erdogan, and Cenk Tosun. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/15/how-a-soccer-jersey-sparked-the-latest-germany-turkey-spat/?utm_term=.c36280ce21f4

 

And it is this event which so clearly demonstrates just how perverse modern society has become. Should Mr. Gundogan have called Mr. Erdogan “my president” while playing for Germany’s national football team? The president of the German football association (DFB), Reinhard Grindel, did not seem to think so, and politicians from both the right (Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany Party) and left (Cem Ozdemir, a former leader of the Green Party and himself of Turkish descent) seemed to agree. As a representative of the German national football team, Mr. Gundogan would have done well to recognize that it is the German—and not Turkish—football system which built him into the world star that he is today; as such, he should have recognized that his president is German (and that his country) is Germany. Had Mr. Gundogan wanted to embrace his Turkish side wholeheartedly, he could have rejected Germany (and all of the privilege that comes with playing for one of the best national sides in world football) and chosen to play for Turkey, similar to Manchester United’s talismanic Ryan Giggs who rejected England in favor of his native Wales despite the corresponding lack of international prestige that went with choosing the Red Dragons. In Giggs’ words:

 

It still bugs me when people ask if I wished I’d played for England. It’s the question that’s bugged more than any other over the last 10 years. I’m Welsh, end of story. My parents are Welsh, my grandparents are Welsh. The mix-up came from the fact that I played for England schoolboys. That’s what confuses people. But I’d rather go through my career without qualifying for a major championship rather than play for a country in which I wasn’t born in or one that had nothing to do with my parents. That’s just stupid.

 

Had Mr. Gundogan been as straightforward as Mr. Giggs—and perhaps sacrificed fame and fortune for family ties—it is likely that there would have been very little backlash as a result of his actions.

Yet, in the globalized world, it is not so simple; indeed Mr. Gundogan—as discussed above—owes much of his sporting pedigree to the German system. During my childhood I myself often toyed with the question of which country I would represent in international football (thankfully, I was never a good enough footballer to actually have to make this decision) and I am aware that this is a difficult choice for anyone to make. Having not grown up in the (extreme) globalized age, however, I was able to make my own judgements and have been able to wholeheartedly embrace both of my nations. In the modern world, however, the push for “diversity” and “multi-culturalism” has attempted to create a meaningless mélange of cultures; far from making people “multi-cultural” or even “bi-cultural” it has instead made people confused, and Mr. Gundogan’s case is a perfect example of this confusion.

Judging by this case, Mr. Gundogan still identifies with his Turkish background. This may be due in no small part to the fact that—as the 15 May 2018 article notes— “many German Turks say they still face discrimination because of their ethnicity and religion”. Indeed, the German state might not have been as successful in assimilating its sizable Turkish immigrant population as it would like to believe. And this is the main point. There is nothing shameful in Mr. Gundogan’s inscription to the Turkish President itself, and it is not helpful to applaud—or disparage—Mr. Gundogan’s choice without being cognizant of the fact that many factors outside of his control likely went into his decision to call Mr. Erdogan “my president”. As an individual citizen, Mr. Gundogan has every right to express his admiration for any political figure that he desires. This is because footballers are not robots; they are human beings with very real human emotions. Despite the rationalizing tendencies of the modern world (in Weberian terms), emotion still plays a major role.

Many scholars of nationalism recognize the deep emotive bond created by national identities. And despite the emphasis on means-end rationality in our societies and the growing importance of capital interests in modern football, nationalism remains a major force in our world. There is no “global village”, despite what post-modern globalists may believe. If national bonds and cultural identities were as unimportant as the proponents of globalization claim, then it is likely that Germany might have been more successful in integrating its Turkish community. By the same token, it is also likely that the German FA would not have expressed their concerns with Mr. Gundogan’s actions in such overtly nationalist terms. For instance, the president of the DFB, Mr. Grindel, said that “football and the DFB stand for values that Mr. Erdogan does not sufficiently respect”. Similarly, the coach of the German national team, Joachim Low, said that “when you play for Germany you represent German values”. Were it not for Germany’s distaste for Mr. Erdogan, it is unlikely that the jersey would have been an issue; indeed, it is the two-faced nature of modern liberalism which has caused this event to become overblown: according to modern liberals, multiculturalism is good to a degree…but when it begins to threaten the nation’s values, it becomes a problem. Yet these are two irreconcilable positions.

Just as Edward Said noted that “orientalism” said more about the West than it did about the East, so too does this small event tell us more about Western “liberalism” in Germany than it does about Turkey and its supposed Eastern “despotism”. We see that the utopian visions of “multiculturalism” and “pluralism” in the West are—in reality—very difficult to achieve in practice. Despite the continuing attacks on nationalism throughout the world, the emotive connection that individuals feel towards their national identities, cultures, and values are shown both by Mr. Gundogan’s actions, as well as by the DFB’s response to those actions. By bringing in the concept of values, the DFB is making a judgement on Mr. Gundogan’s moral character which may be unwarranted; Mr. Gundogan could have been merely expressing his affinity for the Turkish nation rather than for a leader specifically. Yet this alternative interpretation is not provided by the main(lame)stream media which prefers to spread messages of division.

 

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Mr. Gundogan, Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place in the Midst of a Geopolitical Struggle. Image Courtesy of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/15/how-a-soccer-jersey-sparked-the-latest-germany-turkey-spat/?utm_term=.c36280ce21f4

 

In short, ignoring the emotive aspects of national identity may be doing the world more harm than good by encouraging divisions and the creation of a dangerous double standard. The world would do well to recognize that, as scholars like Anthony D. Smith and Walker Connor have noted, nationalism will not be going away any time soon.

 

Late Stage Capitalism and One-Dimensional Thought in the Modern World: From Football Shirts to Hollywood and Beyond

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As readers may know, collecting soccer/football shirts is one of my main hobbies; it gives me a souvenir to collect in the cities I visit as well as a way to intimately get to know every city I visit. Each polyester shirt serves mainly as a memory of a team, a neighborhood, a city, and a country. In that sense, the shirt can serve as device for building personal, local, and national memories. Unfortunately, modern shirts are become less and less about either personal or national memories and more about extreme capitalism. The German team Schalke 04’s new shirt will have a payment chip in it as part of a sponsorship deal. Fans will apparently be able to buy halftime beers and sausages with…their shirts.

 

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Just Lean Your Shoulder Towards the Register . . . Image Courtesy Of: https://www.wareable.com/smart-clothing/schalke-smart-jersey-pay-4516

 

While this is a troubling attack on what shirts should mean, the Americans have a different way of turning football shirts into vehicles for consumption in the age of late-stage capitalism. While in Europe shirts are being produced to allow people to consume more with money they may not have, in the United States the trend of “throwback jerseys” is creating a market for shirts that once existed; it is an odd form of double consumption. The throwback jersey encourages spending on pseudo-vintage items to the point where, according to Ebay at least, the new “vintage” item sometimes costs more than the actual vintage item itself! The U.S. soccer team LA Galaxy has done a Throwback shirt night at a game, while Sporting Kansas City brought back their throwbacks (from the Kansas City Wiz era) for one night only in April of 2016. Interestingly, USA Today originally labelled the Kansas City Wizards shirts as being too ugly to come back. Yet, in the age of late-stage capitalism, it came back. How did this happen? It is symptomatic of the world of extreme capitalism we live in: People will spend money on anything, as long as it appeals to some sort of human emotion—affection for the past is one such emotion. It is also an example of the one-dimensional thought (to borrow from Herbert Marcuse)  that characterizes the time we live in, a kind of thought that discourages all forms of creativity and different lines of thought.

 

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Old and New…New and Old? Images Courtesy Of: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/mls/sporting-kc/article69923152.html

 

The field of movies can provide us with a few more examples. Rather than develop new films and new storylines by encouraging creativity, the film industry has instead taken to recycling old ideas. Star Wars, which some cultural critics argue should have stopped at one film, and the recent fourth installment of Indiana Jones are two great examples. The latest culprit of rehashing is the Transformers franchise; the newest movie is apparently “racist” according to some critics, while others simply called it terrible.

Like most male children growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I loved Transformers; who wouldn’t love cars that transform into robots? It was, after all, far more interesting than what we see today—human beings transforming into…(i)robots—but I digress. In order to capitalize on the nostalgia of my generation, the purveyors of late-stage capitalism in the film industry have taken to re-making the films of our childhood in hopes that we, many of us now parents, will pass the interest on to our children! The re-appearance of Batman, Superman, the Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers—just to name a few—are all further examples of this process. Along with the films come merchandise and toys; essentially money is being made on recycled ideas and there is little room for new ideas. Interestingly, some toys/franchises from the 1980s have not seen a revival. Among them are GI Joes and Barbies (perhaps because they push messages that run counter to the one-dimensional thought that dominates our current age of late-stage capitalism: American nationalism in the former case and cisgender normativity in the latter case).

 

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I’m Not Sure What This Is, Since It Bears No Resemblance to the Optimus Prime I Know. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cbr.com/the-last-knight-15-ways-it-killed-the-transformers-franchise/

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This Is More Like It. Can I Have My Childhood Back? Image Courtesy Of: http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Optimus_Prime_(G1)/Generation_1_cartoon_continuity

 

Interestingly, sometimes these remakes even end up changing the original to fit the needs of the dominant strains of existing one-dimensional thought: It is a world where Barbie’s beau, Ken, sports a man bun. It is also one where the new Spider man is black, Iron Man is now a young black girl (how the fictional character’s name is still Iron “Man” is unclear, but that is something the progressives clearly failed to acknowledge), and the superhero Thor is now…a woman (Again, the fact that Thor is actually a Norse God—and a male—was missed by progressive minds). We should not, of course, be surprised that cultural history is being re-written; American history itself is also being re-written, as evidenced by the war on Confederate monuments in the South. But we should be surprised that—in a cynical bid to make more money—the purveyors of extreme capitalism are pandering to one dimensional thought by changing the genders and races of comic book characters while they remake them and resell them to the general public and no one seems to care. Wouldn’t it be nicer if comic book executives came up with new  superheroes, and made them whichever race or gender they pleased, rather than succumb to tokenism by changing the existing superheroes in order to pander to the demands of one-dimensional thought? Unfortunately that would require something called “Creativity”, something that has been stifled in the brave new world we now live in.

 

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In This (Brave) New World, Ken Sports a Man Bun. Image Courtesy Of: http://barbie.mattel.com/en-us/about/fashionistas.html

 

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Also, Spider Man (Top) and Iron Man (Bottom) Have changed Races and Genders, Belittling the Causes of Race and Gender Equality Advocates By Becoming Symbols of Tokenism. Images Courtesy of http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/miles-morales-to-replace-peter-parker-as-first-black-spider-man-in-marvel-comics-10336153.html (Top) and http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2016/07/06/marvels-new-iron-man-teenage-black-woman/ (Bottom).

 

This kind of one-dimensional thought has become so pervasive that there was outrage when U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted an admittedly comical Gif of him body-slamming Professional Wrestling entrepreneur Vince Mcmahon with a CNN logo superimposed over his head. Instead of recognizing the humor, there was only outrage. Unfortunately, the outrage did not go far enough since few people batted an eye when CNN essentially blackmailed the creator of the Gif when they threatened to publically expose the individual’s identity. When a media company acts like the mob one would expect outrage. Instead, there is silence because the public has succumbed to one dimensional thought; the public refuses to recognize that the mainstream media is—and has been for years—essentially lying. When the New York Times calls globalism a “far-right conspiracy theory” you have to question the media’s legitimacy: Academics have been critical of globalization for years!.

Again, this refusal to question dominant narratives is not a new phenomenon. If the government said they would be taking pictures of everyone’s homes and neighborhoods and making it publically available, they would be outraged. But when Google does it people do not bat an eye. If the government told people that they had to “check in” and publically announce where they are during the day, there would be outrage. But when people voluntarily give such information on Facebook, or their online comments are stamped by the location of their phone or computer’s IP address, people do not bat an eye. It is, indeed, a dangerous world.

People would do well to break free of this type of one-dimensional thought fostered by late-stage capitalist society and encouraged by mass media and Hollywood celebrities. Society will be better—and more “diverse”, to use a liberal catch phrase—if alternative perspectives are allowed.

The media would be better if freedom of thought was encouraged. Academia would improve if freedom of opinion was encouraged. Movies and comic books would be better if creativity was allowed. We are tired of the same old things, the same old stories, the same old one-dimensional thought being re-hashed with only the goal of making money in mind. We want new things—and new ideas—to help us break free of the conservatism and rationality of the late-stage capitalist world.

American Media Uses Sports to Send a Political Message in President Barack Obama’s Farewell: A Photo Essay

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The media has a unique power to shape our perceptions of the world, and even our perceptions of our own selves (Kellner, 2015). That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that American sports media giant ESPN should use the occasion of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs’ visit to the White House to send political messages. The baseball team’s trip to the White House on 16 January 2017 was, as ESPN noted, the final official event of Barack Obama’s presidency.

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Another Day, Another Jersey For Mr. Obama. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/18488717/president-obama-celebrates-world-series-champion-chicago-cubs

 

In a way, it is fitting that the holder of the world’s most powerful job should end his tenure by presiding over an event dedicated to sports since it shows the continual importance of sport to modern society. In President Obama’s words (the full event can be seen here): “Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we are. … Sports has a way of changing hearts in a way politics or business doesn’t”. Perhaps that is true, and President Obama showed how much he believed it to be true when he visited Cuba in the midst of a historic rapprochement. But if we take Mr. Obama’s words in another direction—and note that sport is itself a business and rarely separate from politics—then I am left wondering…can sport, if connected to both business and politics, truly change hearts in the manner that Mr. Obama believes?

From ESPN’s perspective, judging by their reporting on this event, sport is clearly seen as a tool in order to send a political message and is—therefore—not independent of either business or politics; in this respect the United States is no different from Turkey. Even Mr. Obama saw a chance to use the event to his benefit, astutely opening the event with the multilayered line “they said this day would never come”, which could refer either to the Cubs’ long-awaited championship, his presidency, or its imminent end.  His triple entendre, so to speak, is a tribute to Mr. Obama’s oratory skills that have enabled him to become a revered–even “saint” like–figure in America and the world, even if I believe history will view his presidency in a less than favorable light. Since I am a fan of jerseys, however, I will present you with a selection of Mr. Obama’s collection since it is pretty substantial. Mr. Obama’s collection just goes to show that sports and politics (as well as business) are rarely independent of one another, even if the outgoing President believes that they can be separate.

 

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November 2013: The NHL Champion Chicago Blackhawks Visit the White House. From USA Today: “the Chicago Blackhawks visited the White House for the traditional meeting with the president. As is customary, the team gave President Obama a customized jersey — this time, a road sweater with Obama’s name and the number 13, representing the year of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory. Image and Quote Courtesy Of: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/11/blackhawks-jersey-obama

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A Little Bonus Coverage Of Sports And Politics In The US Media Here. The USA Today Noted That The Chicago Blackhawks Presented Mr. Obama With Three-Year Old Jersey (One Above). In Response, They Posted The Above Picture With the Caption: “At least it’s not as bad as the time the 1972 Miami Dolphins completely misspelled the president’s name.” Of Course, The 1972 Miami Dolphins Were Not Misspelling Mr. Obama’s Name, They Were Celebrating Their Undefeated 1972 Season; The Comment Represents A Small Shaming Of The Team For Not Presenting An “Obama” Jersey. Critical Readings Of The Media Are Necessary. Image and Quote Courtesy Of: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/11/blackhawks-jersey-obama

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April 2013: The University of Alabama (American) Football Team Visit the White House. From USA Today: “The University of Alabama Crimson Tide, college football champions for the third time in four years, presented the president with one more jersey — as well as a helmet and football — during a White House ceremony Monday, adding to an ever-expanding list of presidential gifts.” Image and Quote Courtesy Of: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/04/15/obama-alabama-jersey-gifts-national-archives/2084645/

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April 2015. NFL Champion New England Patriots Visit The White House. Note The Political Tensions Inherent In This Comment By Mr. Obama: “‘I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat,’ Obama quipped, referencing the Deflategate saga.” The main protagonist of the “deflategate” controversy was New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, a Prominent Republican Who Did Not Attend This Ceremony. Image And Quote Courtesy Of: https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2015/04/23/patriots-minus-tom-brady-set-for-white-house-visit/ozlYSf3PvGBiSPdsRF9lvJ/story.html

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Bonus! Just Because Its an Amusing Picture. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/patriots_nfl/the_blitz/2015/04/obama_jokes_about_deflategate_as_white_house_salutes_patriots

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May 2016. College Basketball Champions Villanova University Visit the White House. Mr. Obama Doesn’t Seem Too Pleased; Perhaps He Prefers Un-Framed Jerseys. From rollcall.com: Barack Obama showed his love of college basketball one last time as president by welcoming this year’s NCAA champion Villanova Wildcats to the White House.” Image and Quote Courtesy Of: http://www.rollcall.com/news/hoh/villanova-basketball-fan-ncaa-obama-president
470461508.jpgApril 2015. Mr. President Doesn’t Look Too Pleased, Perhaps Because It Means He Will Need a Bigger Closet. College Basketball Champions Ohio State University Visit the White House. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gettyimages.com/event/obama-welcomes-national-champion-ohio-state-university-buckeyes-to-white-house-549283835?#president-barack-obama-receives-a-team-jersey-as-he-hosts-the-ohio-picture-id470461360

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August 2010. The NFL Champion New Orleans Saints Visit The White House. Post Hurricane Katrina, President Obama Sends a Political Message. From CBS News: “’I’m a Bears fan, I’m not going to lie, but this was a big win for the country – not just New Orleans’ the president said. He noted that after Hurricane Katrina the Saints had to play an entire season on the road because their home stadium, the Superdome, was ruined in the storm”. Image And Quote Courtesy Of: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/08/09/obama-welcomes-saints-to-white-house/

Lebron-Heat-Obama-jersey-and-autographed-ball-e1359494230358.jpgJanuary 2013. The NBA Champion Miami Heat Visit the White House and Mr. Obama Is More Enthused Alongside Lebron James. Image Courtesy Of: http://thatsenuff.com/2013/01/29/mama-i-made-it-heat-visit-the-white-house/

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February 2016. NBA Champion Golden State Warriors Visit the White House. Interestingly, Mr. Obama Managed a Near Carbon Copy of His January 2013 Smile. Image Courtesy Of: http://abc7news.com/sports/warriors-honored-by-obama-at-the-white-house/1186562/

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October 2015. The FIFA Women’s World Cup Winning US Women’s National Soccer Team Visits the White House. Note the Amazing Design Of the Numbering, Hats Off To Nike. From npr.org: “This team taught all of America’s children that ‘playing like a girl’ means you’re a badass,” he [Mr. Obama] said. Image and Quote Courtesy Of: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/27/452260571/obama-to-u-s-womens-soccer-team-playing-like-a-girl-means-youre-a-badass

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For Those Interested in Mr. Obama’s Connection to Football, Please Check Out Sports Illustrated’s Article. It Includes This Amazing Image From 2009, when Brazilian President Lula Presented the American President With a Brazil Jersey. Judging By Mr. Obama’s Reaction, It Just Isn’t The Same as Receiving an American Jersey. Image courtesy of: http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/photo/2017/01/19/president-barack-obama-soccer-mls-usmnt-uswnt-world-cup

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One Final Bonus Comes From a Russian News Site. Russia-insider.com Managed To Dig Up This Piece. It Shows the Odd Connection Between Sports, Militarism, Nationalism, and Politics In the United States. Note Russia-insider’s Caption “A Big Fan Of Himself”. Image Courtesy Of: http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/obama-rails-against-putin-many-others-un-speech/ri10016

ISIS Bans Football Shirts: Is it Just an Attack on Capitalism? Or Might it be a Sign of Weakness?

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On 21 September 2016 The Mirror reported that police in Iraq’s ISIS controlled Al-Furat Province forbade people from wearing football shirts made by Adidas and Nike. Wearing shirts from Premier League teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, West Brom, and Sunderland were also banned, along with the national team shirts of England, Germany, and France. Additionally, wearing the Cross of St. George—as well as American, French, and German flags—have all been banned. Violators face 80 lashes in public as punishments, and leaflets regarding the new policy have been distributed in northern Syria. As bizarre as this news sounds, the policies were actually enforced in Iraq’s Mosul according to Iraqi news. Three men were arrested for playing football and given thirty lashes each in a public square, while the ISIS members tore the Messi shirt that one man was wearing. Its certainly an odd coincidence that it was a Messi shirt that was deemed offensive, given Messi’s role as a UNICEF ambassador and the publicity elicited from his decision to send a young Afghan child two signed jerseys in April 2016 . Of course, Messi’s move was not without complications—the young Afghan family had to move because of the attention they got.

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MEMRI’s Post of ISIS’ announcement. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1825004/isis-thugs-ban-citizens-wearing-england-football-tops-and-clothes-made-by-sportswear-giants-nike-and-adidas/

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Lionel Messi helped young Murtaza but it was more reminiscent of Western aid to the developing world–a small band-aid that could never address the over-arching structural problems. Murtaza’s family ended up having to move following this publicity; meanwhile, Messi’s shirt gets ripped in Iraq. Image Courtesy of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37350970

ISIS have taken moves against football in the past and therefore this latest development—though absurd—is not surprising. As a commentator from CBS Sports notes, “One could speculate that perhaps ISIS does not one [Sic. Please excuse cbssports.com’s poor editing job; I can only assume they mean “does not want anyone”] anyone indirectly supporting big companies of the western world.” Certainly, this is part of the issue. One element that fostered a climate where ISIS could attract recruits is the failure of Western-style capitalism in the Middle East; petrodollars led to cronyism, and normal citizens did not feel like they were actually benefiting from the economic system. When people feel like the cards are stacked against them economically and socially, it can lead them to joining a group that promises to fight against the system. So certainly the opposition to “Western” consumer culture is an important selling point for ISIS; one need only look at various pictures from the Syrian conflict to see just how many knock off Ronaldo and Messi shirts are being worn to understand their ubiquity. But here is where we get to the second motive for ISIS’ actions. These shirts are not true Adidas or Nike shirts; they are knock offs. Thus I believe that ISIS’ new law is not based only on economic concerns, rather it is based on cultural concerns as well.

After the latest military operations, led by the Turkish army under the name “Operation Euphrates Shield”, it seems that the so-called Islamic State has been put on the back foot. Nothing in the region is certain, of course, but the latest mi challenge to ISIS’ hold on territory in northern Syria is not insignificant. Therefore, there is another way to look at the latest ISIS decrees regarding soccer shirts: the group may be looking to consolidate their rule and have become wary of splits within the movement.

Any football fan knows that the fan identity plays a major role in how an individual sees themselves in the world; football allows for a group identity that transcends the individual. Football also creates an opportunity for a global society to form, one that appeals to all people regardless of nationality, religion, or ethnicity. ISIS’ leadership may be aware of this and are now trying to stamp out identities that compete with their agenda. The simple act of wearing a football shirt, in this case, may not be seen as identification with a particular team (Manchester United or Barcelona, for instance); it may be seen as identification with a particular culture. In this case, it is Western culture (which football represents). This is why, as bizarre as the ban on football shirts may seem, it may in fact represent an attempt at ideological consolidation at a time when wider splits may be appearing within the so-called “Islamic State” as they come under attack.

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