Nike’s new England men’s soccer shirt is causing a stir with its recolored flag

A view of Nike's designed St George's Cross on the back of the collar of the new England shirt at St. George's Park, Burton upon Trent, England, Friday March 22, 2024. England's new men's soccer team shirt is out and it's causing a bit of a stir. And it's not just the price that's vexing some. The decision by Nike to change the color of the St. George’s Cross on the new shirt from the traditional red and white has even prompted the prime minister and the man who is favored to succeed him to make their displeasure known. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

A view of Nike’s designed St George’s Cross on the back of the collar of the new England shirt at St. George’s Park, Burton upon Trent, England, Friday March 22, 2024. England’s new men’s soccer team shirt is out and it’s causing a bit of a stir. And it’s not just the price that’s vexing some. The decision by Nike to change the color of the St. George’s Cross on the new shirt from the traditional red and white has even prompted the prime minister and the man who is favored to succeed him to make their displeasure known. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — England’s new men’s soccer team shirt is out and it’s causing a bit of a stir. And it’s not just the price that’s vexing some.

The decision by Nike to change the color of the St. George’s Cross on the new shirt from the traditional red and white has even prompted the prime minister and the man who is favored to succeed him to make their displeasure known.

A petition on Change.org calling for a design change had already attracted more than 22,000 signatures by early afternoon Friday.

The new Nike-designed shirt, which has been modeled by some players, including England captain Harry Kane, is being rolled out in the run-up to this year’s European Championship in Germany. It has an altered cross on the back of the shirt’s collar, redesigned using purple and blue horizontal stripes.

Nike says it’s a “playful update” to the shirt ahead of Euro 2024 and harks back to the training kit the England team wore at the 1966 World Cup, the only major tournament won by the men’s team. England will be starting the tournament this summer as one of the favorites.

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party and a fan of Premier League leaders Arsenal, said he believed the flag, which is marked by an image of the St. George’s Cross, was a “unifier” and that Nike needed to “reconsider” its decision to modify it.

“It doesn’t need to be changed,” he told the Sun newspaper. “We just need to be proud of it.”

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, on a visit to the north of England, was also asked about what he thought about Nike’s change.

“Obviously I prefer the original and my general view is that when it comes to our national flags, we shouldn’t mess with them because they are a source of pride, identity, who we are and they’re perfect as they are,” said Sunak, who supports Southampton, which is vying for promotion back to the Premier League.

In the looming general election this year, opinion polls suggest Labour will beat the Conservatives and politicians of all colors will no doubt be called upon to give their views on a variety of cultural issues.

Nike and the Football Association, which oversees the England national team, have indicated that they are not going to change tack.

Despite the criticism, the FA defended the design, saying that it was “not the first time” that different colored St. George’s Cross-inspired designs have appeared on England shirts and that it is “very proud” of the traditional cross.

“The new England 2024 home kit has a number of design elements which were meant as a tribute to the 1966 World Cup-winning team,” a spokesperson said. “The colored trim on the cuffs is inspired by the training gear worn by England’s 1966 heroes, and the same colors also feature on the design on the back of the collar.”

John Barnes, one of England’s greatest-ever players, said he could not understand what all the fuss was about and that he tries to avoid culture wars.

“I think it’s a much ado about nothing,” said the 60-year-old former winger.

For most people, the problem will be less the color of the flag and more its price tag. An “authentic” version for adults will cost 125 pounds ($155) and 120 pounds for children. That’s quite an outlay at a time when household budgets have been stretched as a result of one of the most acute cost-of-living crises in decades.

The Football Supporters’ Association has long bemoaned the high cost of replica shirts and suggested that a “sell-by” date should be put on kits so buyers know how long it will be in use before a newer version is released.

“An unwitting parent could easily buy a kit for Christmas or a birthday to find it’s ‘old’ within a matter of months,” a spokesperson for the group said.

AP Business

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