The U.S. women’s soccer team wore Nike t-shirts with a smug, tacky slogan reading “Greatness Has Been Found” after its gold medal win over Japan on Thursday. The shirts were roundly panned on Twitter, from critics both foreign and domestic.
Members of the team were handed the shirts immediately after their win. This is a ritual common after big victories in American team sports. After the Super Bowl or NCAA basketball title game, for instance, winning teams immediately put on shirts and hats that proclaim them champions.
If it’s ever happened at an Olympics, I can’t remember. Throw in the phrase ”greatness has been found” — which would be distasteful enough on a team celebrating an SEC championship — and the whole thing feels completely out of place.
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times tweeted, “‘Greatness has been found,’ but not humility. Gross.”
SI.com’s Courtney Nguyen agreed. “Put those t-shirts away, USA.” she tweeted. “Keep it classy.”
No one is blaming the women on the team. They were handed shirts and put them on, as expected. And I don’t blame Nike either: Every 13-year-old girl who’s ever picked up a soccer ball is begging for one right now. The people at fault are the go-betweens for Nike and Team USA. They should have realized the way those shirts could have been perceived.
Wearing a personalized shirt at an Olympics that seems to rub the loss in face of defeated opponents plays into the stereotype of ugly Americanism. If people who were rooting for the women’s soccer team found them off-putting, imagine the reaction of the rest of world.
I’m all for showing off the greatness of the United States and our sporting teams. At an Olympics, there’s an easy way to do it: Stand on top of the podium while “The Star Spangled Banner” plays. It gets the job done better than any marketing gimmick could.