Nike responds to U.S. national team jersey controversy
Nike has been heavily criticized by American soccer fans over its new jerseys for the men's and women's national teams, and not just because a fair number of people don't like the color scheme.
The sportswear behemoth that has outfitted the national team program for decades has been hit especially hard on two issues.
First, with the women's jerseys, the low-cut neckline has been called unnecessarily sexualizing by some fans, and simply inconvenient anatomically for others whose body shapes aren't the same as the widely used industry standard.
Second, with the men's jerseys, you can't buy one emblazoned with the three stars that represent the World Cups won by the women's team. There are plenty of men who support Jill Ellis' reigning champions just as much as they support Jurgen Klinsmann's collection of question marks.
This week I reached out to a Nike spokesperson to try to get the company's perspective on the uproar, and how it plans to respond. Here are the questions I asked via e-mail, and the answers I received.
Are there plans to sell a U.S. jersey with three stars in a men's cut? If not, would you mind explaining why?
What does Nike see as the demand for that item? Because I write often about soccer business matters, I have been asked many times by male readers to find out more about this issue, and while social media is a key element of the soccer conversation in America, it is not always an accurate tool for measuring the true scale of demand. So I am hoping you are able to provide some insight.
Nike is a long-time supporter of Women's soccer and the USWNT, and we have created multiple women's-specific products and fan products around the team over the years. Engaging male supporters of women's soccer and the USWNT is part of that.
Why was the neckline of the women's replica jersey cut to such a lower degree than the neckline cut of the men's jersey? A Nike spokesperson told Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl the following on Twitter:
Do you have an approximation yet of when that date will be?
The lower neckline provides a different fit, but we recognize that many fans and players want the same cut as the one worn by the players and there will be a replica with the same neckline the USWNT wear (in limited numbers in the next few months, with wider distribution later this summer).
The men's jerseys are sold in "stadium" and "match" versions, but there is only a "stadium" version of the women's jersey. Why is that?
We have collections of products for men and collections specific to the women's team (e.g. Fan tees or the women's-specific kit for the World Cup last year). It doesn't necessarily follow that every single item of US Soccer merchandise is identical for both.
The women's "stadium" jersey does not feature the FIFA patch given to the Women's World Cup champion, even though the jersey worn by the team itself does, and over the years, various manufacturers have made jerseys with FIFA patches available for sale to the public. Why doesn't the new U.S. women's jersey for sale to the public, and will the next version that has been promised include it?
We are discussing this with US Soccer, and we'll provide an update if there is any change on this.