Adidas has pulled two shirts from their FIFA World Cup product line. Hostile criticism by Brazil government resonated with the German apparel company. Adidas revealing World Cup shirts missed the net by exploiting a counter-culture Brazil is not proud of.
Brazil is the host country for this year’s World Cup. A strong soccer or football tradition is at the heart of the South American country, and this is what they want the projected 600,000 foreign fans to focus on. The United States has baseball and basketball, Canada has hockey, and Brazil has soccer. Soccer is the national sport that unites and symbolizes the country. For this reason, understanding why Brazil is short-tempered about these shirts, designed by a main sponsor and official ball maker of the tournament, alluding to prostitution is not difficult.
Two shirts were pulled from Adidas’ product line. The first shows a woman on the beach of Rio, Rio because of Sugarloaf Mountain in the background, wearing a promiscuous bikini while asking Johns if they are “lookin’ to score”. The shirt is slightly accurate to Brazilian culture, but taken out of context in a way that is misogynistic to women. Rio is essentially one massive beach where locals hangout all day under radiating sunny skies. The “lookin’ to score” is inaccurate. Women are not approaching a group of strangers on Copacabana or Ipanema beach. Brazil, more specifically Rio, is too dangerous for this type of innocence.
The second revealing World Cup Adidas shirt that missed the net is “I love Brazil” resembling a woman’s buttocks. The shirts are part of a limited collection that has only sold in the U.S. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, is anti sex tourism. The reputation of Brazil as a party country is one she is actively fighting.
Rouseff messaged on Twitter, “Brazil is happy to receive tourists for the World Cup, but it is also ready to combat sex tourism.”
The prostitution cloud hanging over Brazil’s head is a dark one, and Rouseff has focused her attention on fighting it. Outside persona is important for a country that is hosting two of the largest international tourist events in sports culture, World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. A tourist is forced to question the current state of Brazil if two simple shirts can cause this level of outrage.
Tourists must keep their head on a swivel in Rio. The city is a work in progress and police security is questioned at times. However, income inequality is moving in the right direction. The income gap is closing as the government has subsidized a grassroots movement to lift Brazilians into the middle class. In the last decade alone 40 million Brazilians have entered this class. Even after the public investments, the discrepancy between Favelas, shantytowns, and ritzy Rio neighborhoods is reminiscent of a third world country.
The World Cup begins on June 12. Brazil would appreciate if apparel manufacturers refer to this dispute with Adidas about revealing shirts before missing the net themselves.
Editorial by Niles Olson