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UPDATE: African Team Permanently DQ’d Over Uni Ad Protest

Yesterday I wrote about Dynamo BBC, the Basketball Africa League team from Burundi that was forced to forfeit a game on Sunday because they covered up their “Visit Rwanda” jersey ad due to geopolitical tensions between Burundi and Rwanda.

Here’s the latest on that: The team again refused to wear the jersey ad for their Tuesday game. That resulted in another forfeiture, which in turn triggered a disqualification clause. Here’s the official statement from the league:

As I noted in yesterday’s post, this isn’t the first time a uni ad from the Rwanda Development Board has led to controversy. UK soccer giant Arsenal has a “Visit Rwanda” sleeve ad, which has prompted repeated criticisms of the team due to the human rights abuses committed by Rwandan president Paul Kagame and his regime. Despite the blowback, the team has refused to abandon the sleeve ad, which critics view as a textbook case of sportswashing.

I’ll repeat what I said about this yesterday: I know some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, “Keep politics out of sports.” But to me, that’s not the story. The real story here is that this is the gazillionth example of why uni ads suck. Advertising, by definition, has an agenda. Sometimes that agenda can be as benign as “Please consider purchasing our product,” or “Perhaps you’ve never heard of us, so allow us to introduce ourselves.” But at other times it can be as insidious as “Please ignore our atrocities and instead take us seriously as decent, respectable people because we’re buying a friendship with a famous soccer team.” Either way, the players wearing these ads are forced into a position of de facto advocacy for that agenda, whether they agree with it or not.

In an era when we routinely lament that people will do anything for money, or go along to get along, let’s take a moment to salute the Dynamo BBC players, who’ve made a big sacrifice by standing up for their principles.

(My thanks to Marcus Hall for bringing this latest development to my attention.)

Comments (17)

    “Either way, the players wearing these ads are forced into a position of de facto advocacy for that agenda, whether they agree with it or not.”

    And the exact same thing is true for camo unis/warmups, Pride unis/warmups, etc., etc.

    Which would include to a different degree, the national anthem at regular club matches.

    Just keep it all out of sports.

    I don’t need to know your politics, and frankly don’t really care. You aren’t role models or influences on me in any way. Just play the game.

    The only thing the players absolutely need to agree on and advocate for is the team they play for, and thus the only thing that should be on the uniform.

    No more, no less.

    While I agree with some of this in theory, the “Shut up and play.” take is a bad one.

    “You aren’t role models or influences on me in any way.”

    Kids would beg to differ, though.

    Good article, Paul.

    They say Father Time is undefeated. So is Almighty Buck.

    Your point is well-taken about the ads. Ugly aesthetics aside, every ad DOES have an agenda. Very few things in life could be successfully marketed to every human on the planet. I was wondering if you had any data on whether any of these ad patches work? To use a local example, the Flyers now sport a garish blue IBX patch. My insurance comes through the hospital system I work for, and it isn’t Independence Blue Cross. So that ad has zero effect on my decision to use IBX insurance, it just looks like an ugly patch. Many of the patches are for niche industries (OXY/Occidental Petroleum) or local (Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Tria Orthopedics) but none of them have ever moved me to buy a product or use someone’s services. They’re a needless eyesore. Good on the teams I guess for whoring out for a few million dollars, decades of tradition be damned, but these companies can’t be getting much return on this investment… right?

    I’m not a fan of ad patches, but as a soccer fan first and foremost, I’m not as adverse to jersey ads as your average Uni Watcher.
    Regardless, you do realize there is more to advertising of any kind than simply “see ad, buy product”…right?

    I do. But I also know that seeing ads on jerseys (or dasher boards, or upper deck facings) doesn’t affect my pattern of whether I use a company or not. It doesn’t make them top of mind for me even if I don’t use their products or services. It is background noise. So they are paying millions to accomplish nothing.

    The games at Yankee Stadium were better, more fun, and more true to the real meaning and import of sport when, instead of the ponderous and tedious “God Bless America” they force down our throats, they played Cotton Eye Joe or Black Betty during the 7th inning stretch.

    Sports teams and players: I don’t care about your “values,” and I don’t care how much yours overlap with mine.

    It’s more than just an ad; Kagame seems to have had pretty close ties to the league since its inception:

    And BK Arena in Kigali has hosted the first 3 league title games, will do so again this year, and (is scheduled to) again in 2026 and 2028.

    I wouldn’t want to misquote you, Paul, but the presence of the ad is responsible for the “bad public theater” of players being put into an untenable situation; one that wouldn’t have existed had the ad been absent.
    The upshot would seem to be that the Rwanda ads are going nowhere, and the Burundi team will be relocating. Terrible.

    Ideal world, you don’t need ads on the jerseys because you make enough money as a whole and you can say “yeah no, that one thing there isn’t for sale.” But capitalism should also say, choose your deals wisely and suffer if it’s a bad deal. Maybe the basketball team decides to pick a new advertiser that doesn’t kill a season.
    Can you imagine if a conscientious San Francisco Giant said “a self driving Cruise car hurt my sister in law’s best friend’s neighbor, they’re a public menace that isn’t even legal in this state, I’m not wearing the patch?” Wish we never crossed that bridge but it would be the same thing here

    Maybe the basketball team decides to pick a new advertiser that doesn’t kill a season.

    The team didn’t pick the advertiser — league officials did. The same league officials who are now DQing the team.

    Oh holy cow that’s a whole different ball of wax that I did not appreciate! That’s completely messed up

    It is a complicated situation as there is tension between the two countries but their respective airlines are still landing on each others airports as I understand it. Dynamo BBC must have been aware before the season started the the Rwanda ad was part of the sponsorship. They could have said: we withdraw.

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