- Apr 20, 2005
- Reaction score
- Cordova, TN
Drenched in blood-red paint and screaming a war-cry, this chilling image of Wayne Rooney was last night condemned as 'offensive', 'exploitative' and 'tacky' by MPs and church groups.
He may yet turn out to be the saviour of England's World Cup campaign, but the Christ-like pose of the striker in a new Nike campaign yesterday provoked fierce condemnation.
Five people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority watchdog on religious grounds within hours of the advert being posted.
Its other interpretation as a battle cry from the dark ages or throwback to the Crusades was equally unfortunate as the poster's launch coincided with the first outbreak of serious violence involving England's army of fans in Germany on Monday night.
Labour MP Stephen Pound said the advert was 'truly horrible.'
'This is such a horrible image and is so horribly war-like that it can only be described as Nike being crass, offensive and insensitive as they try to hitch poor old Rooney to their commercial band-wagon.'
The MP for Ealing North added: 'He should go out and wear Adidas instead. It's offensive on so many different levels and extremely nasty.
'Wayne's a good Catholic boy and I think the obvious crucifixion nuance is one part of it, but the aggressive nature of the pose is something we could do without.
'If we have learned anything about football in the last few years, it should be that it doesn't need big business trying to inject even more aggression into the mix.'
Nike, who have a £5m contract with the 20-year-old striker, pleaded that they were merely showing him in his trademark goal-scoring 'celebration' gesture and denied they had sought to make any comparison with Christ on the cross.
Rev Rod Thomas of Church of England evangelical group Reform was not convinced.
'It's quite a disturbing image and because the paint is wet, it really looks like blood,' he said.
'It's offensive on several different levels'
'It therefore brings to mind the crucifixion to many people, and why Nike would want to do that, I haven't a clue, unless it is simply as a publicity stunt.
'The trivialisation of Christ's suffering is highly offensive to Christians and to God. This will cause real hurt to people.
'The other aspect of it is the aggression contained in it, bound up with the flag of St George, which you might see as a throwback to the Crusades, which is hardly going to go down well with Muslim countries. It's offensive on several different levels.'
A spokesman for the ASA said the complainants who had see the advert either in a huge 60ft wide roadside hoarding in West London or in some national newspapers, all thought the picture was a reference to the crucifixion.
Some added they found the image 'alarming'.
The picture was the product of a three-hour photoshoot by an unnamed photographer and was the brainchild jointly of Nike executives and their advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy, which also has accounts with Honda, Pizza Hut and Yakult yoghurt.
Although the poster was prepared a few weeks ago, during Rooney's enforced absence from the pitch due to a broken metatarsal bone, Nike decided to publish it. along with their logo 'Just Do It', once his return to the England starting line-up looked likely.
The limited campaign is known in the trade by the unfortunate phrase of a 'tactical execution', according to Wieden and Kennedy's website.
The agency refused to discuss the advert, but a Nike spokeswoman said it would not be shown nationwide or in other countries.
'It was intended solely as a celebration of Rooney's return to the team and is based on his own trademark goal-scoring celebration, nothing to do with the crucifuxion at all, ' she added.
'If we have offended anyone on those grounds, we would stress it was unintentional and we apologise. It is not meant to be an aggressive picture, either. It was a case of catching the mood of the nation as everyone urges Rooney on to great things, and of course our slogan puts it perfectly.
'The red paint is not meant to be blood, it's just echoing the body paint which fans cover themselves in and the rest of Wayne's body is painted white. It's the flag of St George, and nothing else.
'We have had nothing but positive reaction to the poster and a lot of people have been asking if they can buy it. We have no plans to produce it as a poster.'
Rooney was wearing a pair of Nike's new Total 90 Supremacy boots when he injured his foot in a game against Chelsea in April.
The firm rejected claims by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson that the design of the boot had put extra pressure on his metatarsal, causing the fracture.
Rooney's girlfriend Coleen McLoughlin also has a £1.5m contract with the firm to promote a range of sports casual wear.