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Northwestern's Wounded Warrior Uniforms are Controversial, Apparently

The design used on the special Wounded Warriors uniforms Northwestern will wear for its November 16 game against Michigan is apparently giving off mixed messages. Many seem to believe the red streaks featured on the helmets and uniforms, which appear to resemble splattered blood, are in poor taste – with some going as far as to lodge accusations of flag desecration – but Northwestern spokesman Paul Kennedy on Monday responded to the criticism, saying in a statement that the design consists of “a distressed pattern on both the stars and stripes that was inspired by the appearance of a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time.” Kennedy also apologized “for any misinterpretation.”

There are two parts to this semi-controversy. The first deals purely with aesthetics: either you believe Under Armour screwed up the design or you don’t. If you’re in the second group – if you understand the fundamental objective of the design, and realize the company probably could have foreseen that the pattern, while creative at first glance, might give off mixed signals for people who micro-analyze any show of patriotism beyond its basic purpose – you accept the contention by the University and Under Armour, who backed up Kennedy’s statement by saying that the design is “an authentic distressed pattern which depicts a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time,” and move on. Whether you think the uniforms feature blood streaks or not, that argument is a non-starter. (Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who was particularly critical of the idea that the blood-splatters are "artistically scattered" across the apparel, made his stance clear: "in execution, this is pretty disgusting," he wrote of the uniforms on Charles Pierce's politics blog on Esquire.)

Who will profit from these uniforms is the second, and more interesting, part of this discussion. The game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior project, according to the University, but only 10 percent of proceeds from other jerseys sold online will go to the foundation. That number seems a bit small to some people.

One particularly strong take on the topic came from The Daily Northwestern’s Sean Lavery, who wrote the following in a column published online Tuesday night.

But perhaps NU can put its money where its mouth is and match – or double, or triple – the paltry 10 percent Under Armour is willing to part with on jersey sale.


It’s probably the least they can do for the roughly 1 million veterans who spilled actual blood in Afghanistan and Iraq so our football players can play dress-up as zombie members of Seal Team 6 on Nov. 16.

The message is clear, it seems: there are people our there who respect Northwestern’s efforts to honor our nation’s wounded veterans, who believe a foundation like the Wounded Warrior project is something anyone can get behind. They just think Northwestern and Under Armour – if the goal of wearing these uniforms is to honor the Wounded Warrior Project – should be willing to hand a bigger share of the proceeds over to the foundation.

It should be noted that the University, according to ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell, will only receive between 8-10 percent of the profit of each $75 jersey sold.

I imagine there is a group of people who couldn’t care less about what seems like a silly controversy, who would rather not pay any mind to the furor. College football uniforms, thanks in large part to the futuristic designs Oregon's unis have become famous for over the past decade-plus, are moving in a wackier and gaudier direction by the year.

The Wildcats overhauled their threads last season, and the changes were generally well-received. Northwestern hadn’t recently generated national headlines with its apparel until this week, and the reaction is probably more critical than the University and Under Armour intended when they agreed to let the football team wear these uniforms for a purely patriotic cause.

We put together a small photo gallery containing various shots of the uniforms (the University also released a promotional video), which will feature one of seven “core value embellishments” (Duty, Honor Courage, Commitment, Integrity, Country and Service) on the nameplates instead of players’ last names. At least a few people seem to like the creativity and detail of the Wounded Warrior kits.