Adidas 'Nazi' design flaw explained: Why is the number 44 banned?


Adidas has quickly halted the sale of German football shirts customized with the number 44 after they were likened to a Nazi SS symbol.

German football fans had previously been able to customize the white sports jerseys with numbers and text on the back.

However, historian Michael König raised concern about the number, which resembled the Schutzstaffel (SS) sign used by the brutal private military group in the Second World War.

König, among others, suggested on social media that the design was “very questionable”, leading the sports brand to take action.

Adidas representatives have since confirmed that they were banning people from customizing the German football shirt with the number 44, maintaining that the design flaw was unintentional.

"We as a company are committed to opposing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, violence and hatred in every form," said the Adidas spokesperson Oliver Brüggen.

Why is the 44 logo controversial?

The SS was a paramilitary group overseen by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party that was responsible for the genocide against Jewish people conducted during WWII.

Considered an elite guard unit, they often carried out brutal operations in the name of the Third Reich.

Designed in 1929 by designer Walter Heck, the SS symbol usually consisted of two bold, lightning white bolts on a black background, which paramilitary group members wore. It’s also a symbol that’s now banned in Germany because of its ties to brutality in the 1930s and 40s.

While unintentional, Adidas’ new football shirt included a font that made 44 resemble the Nazi SS logo. The design flaw was swiftly pointed out before the jerseys were pulled from sale.

The German Football Association (DFB) said it took the claims very seriously and would work on a new design.

“The DFB checks the numbers 0-9 and then submits the numbers 1-26 to UEFA for review. None of the parties involved saw any proximity to Nazi symbolism in the development process of the jersey design,” the DFB said in a translated statement.

“Nevertheless, we take the information very seriously and do not want to provide a platform for discussions. Together with our partner 11teamsports, we will develop an alternative design for the number 4 and coordinate it with UEFA.”

Other football kit controversies

Football jerseys have been a hot topic in recent weeks, with many furious football fans expressing their dissatisfaction with their favourite teams’ design choices.

Germany also revealed that its away jerseys were pink to embrace further diversity within male sports. It then released a promotional video that appeared to respond to any criticism the shirts received.

England’s new jerseys also faced similar criticism after the team revealed a new St George’s Cross on the shirts with purple and blue stripes.

Some fans claimed they should ‘burn’ the new jerseys, and even politicians such as Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer warned Nike against changing the original flag. Sunak maintained that national flags were "a source of pride, identity, who we are, and they are perfect as we are".

Despite some criticism, Nike and the England football team don’t appear to have any plans to change the “playful update” ahead of the Euros.