Germany will redesign the numbers on its national soccer jersey after realizing they look like a Nazi symbol

World News

(JR) — The new line of German soccer jerseys by Adidas will be redesigned after customers realized the stylization of the number 44 resembled the infamous Nazi SS lightning bolt symbol.

The German Football Association, or DFB, shared in a statement Monday that the number designs had been submitted to the Union of European Football Associations for review, and “none of the parties involved saw any proximity to Nazi symbolism in the development process of the jersey design.”

Now the jerseys’ font is being refashioned so as not to evoke an association with the SS, the force that took a leading role in perpetrating the Holocaust. 

“Nevertheless, we take the information very seriously and do not want to provide a platform for discussions,” the DFB said, adding that it “will develop an alternative design for the number 4 and coordinate it with UEFA.”

The number 44 is not currently used by any player on either the men’s or women’s teams, but Adidas, the German sportswear company that is the team’s official uniform supplier, allows customers to personalize their jerseys with a number from 00 to 99 and a name up to 10 letters long. That means people who buy the jersey could choose the number 44. 

Adidas spokesperson Oliver Bruggen told German news outlet Bild that the company “will block the number 44 as quickly as possible.”

The company “firmly rejects any suggestion that this was our intention,” he told German publications, noting to one that the company employs people from 100 different countries and opposes antisemitism and other forms of hatred. “Any attempts to promote divisive or marginalizing views are not part of our values as a brand,” he said. 

In addition, by Monday afternoon in Germany, DPA reported that “certain names relating to… National Socialism cannot be ordered.” An error message would appear instead: “This does not comply with our guidelines for personalization,” the message said. “Please try something else.”

A rendering of the jersey with the number 44. (Screenshot)

By Tuesday, no customization options were available at all, and jerseys for players number 4, 14, and 24 — Jonathan Tah, defense; Maximilian Beier, forward; and Oliver Baumann, goalkeeper, respectively — are not currently available on the online store. The other 20 players’ jerseys remain online and available for purchase.

The jerseys are also available on the Adidas website, but not customizable. Jerseys for other teams remain customizable.

Adidas has its own Nazi history, founded by brothers Adolf “Adi” and Rudolf Dassler, who both formally joined the Nazi Party and signed their letters with “heil Hitler.” The emphasis on sports in the Third Reich contributed to an explosion in their company’s shoe sales. 

The company was embroiled in an antisemitism controversy in 2022 when the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who had a lucrative partnership with the brand, embarked on a stream of public antisemitic comments. Adidas broke off the partnership amid mounting pressure.

DFB and Adidas revealed the new jerseys on March 13, along with an ad campaign repeating the phrase “typical German” that “plays with well-known German clichés and stereotypes.” The team debuted the shirts in a friendly game against France on March 23, and they are set to be worn at the 2024 UEFA European Championship, hosted by Germany in June.

DFB announced less than two weeks ago that after more than 70 years, it would end its relationship with Adidas upon the expiration of their contract in 2026, turning to competitor Nike instead. This came as a blow to Adidas, which suffered financial losses after ending its relationship with West, with whom it had a line of sneaker and clothing products.