The German Football Association (DFB) said on Monday that it would change the design of the number four on its national team’s jerseys after its font drew comparisons to the symbol of a notorious Nazi paramilitary unit.

“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 creation process of the jersey design,” the organization said in a statement on X.

“Nevertheless, we take the comments very seriously and do not want to provide a platform for discussions. We will develop an alternative design for the number 4 and coordinate it with UEFA.”

It wasn’t long after the new jerseys were debuted in a recent friendly match against France before users on social media pointed out the number four’s startling resemblance to the stylized rune used by the Schutzstaffel, the elite Nazi unit involved in perpetrating the Holocaust and scores of war crimes.

This observation reached a new stratosphere of virality after people exploring Adidas’ online shop noticed that you could order a personalized jersey reading “44”—even more closely mimicking the SS’s double lightning bolt emblem, which remains banned in Germany.

A spokesperson for Adidas, the longtime makers of the German team’s jerseys, said it would halt the sale of customized “44” kits “as quickly as possible,” according to Reuters. The spokesperson affirmed to German media that Adidas “actively [opposes] xenophobia, anti-Semitism, violence and hatred in any form.”

To NBC News, a company representative added, “Any attempts to promote divisive or exclusionary views are not part of our values as a brand.”

The German team does not assign numbers higher than 23 to its athletes, but both the numbers 4 and 14 were sported by German players on the French pitch late last month. The jerseys are set to be worn by Germany as it hosts the 2024 UEFA European Championship this summer.

The DFB weathered another firestorm earlier this year after announcing it intends to end its 70-year partnership with Adidas and jump ship to Nike in 2027. The German press reported that the U.S.-based Nike had agreed to pay the DFB approximately double what Adidas had offered to have its athletes wear its kits.

The deal drew the ire of fans, including some politicians. “I can hardly imagine the German jersey without the three stripes,” Robert Habeck, Germany’s vice chancellor and economic minister, sniffed to the local news agency DPA. “For me, Adidas and black-red-gold always belonged together. A piece of German identity.”



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