Adidas have made a stylish point this week on Instagram. ‘Racism’ is written in white across a black banner, with a red line crossing out the word. The following slide is some inspirational truisms. ‘Together is how we move forward. Together we have the power to make a change. Together we must fight what is wrong and try to make it right.’
On a level, it works. The sentiments might seem trite but that doesn’t mean they’re not sincere and they are also true. Many of these aphorisms, which have been circulating in recent days following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, are feint echoes of the Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream Speech.’
It’s hard to knock a major corporation trying to do the right thing. You would rather that they cared about how they looked, that they wanted to convey commendable messages than simply ignored the world around them.
Mesut Ozil’s long running sponsorship deal with Adidas is likely to be coming to an end
Back in 2014 when Germany won the World Cup, Ozil was at the peak of his powers
But even the social media team at Adidas must feel the superficiality. It’s activism without sacrifice. King paid with his life for his challenge to racism. Most of us aren’t up for that degree of commitment; a Tweet or an Instagram post might suffice.
Genuine activism is messy, complicated and may cost money at a corporate level. Shortly after the Adidas Instagram post, Bild Zeitung reported that the firm are likely to terminate their seven-year relationship with Mesut Ozil, worth about £2.5m a year.
Though Adidas haven’t commented, you could see their reasoning if that was the case. The deal’s coming to an end anyway. Ozil’s representatives, as his £350,000-a-week deal at Arsenal demonstrates, don’t sell their client cheap. So, it is maybe that they are asking for too much, given his current status. Two assists and one goal in the Premier League this season and multiple absences do not a boot-selling icon make.
Then there’s the whole public image issue. Back in 2014, posing with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the World Cup as the poster boy for modern, integrated Germany, Ozil was at the peak of his powers. By 2018, photo ops with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey led to him being booed by his own fans in Germany and he wasn’t such a hot ticket.
Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil and Cenk Tosun pose with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Reports say that none of the above was relevant to Adidas, that if the deal isn’t renewed it will be merely the natural end of a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
But he also is pretty much the only footballer who has spoken up for Uighur Muslims in China being detained in re-education camps in the Xinjiang region. According to Amnesty, up to one million Muslims have been forced into these camps.
Clearly any friend of Erdogan – last year the President was best man at Ozil’s wedding – is a very compromised human rights advocate. Like Pep…