By Larry Shaughnessy
(CNN) – The Northwestern University football team has come on hard times. After an impressive start to the season it’s in the midst of a five-game losing streak. And this week the school is caught up in a controversy about, of all things, a uniform that some say appears to be splattered in blood.
The Wildcats will play Michigan Wolverines at home on November 16, just five days after Veterans Day. The university teamed up with Under Armour and the Wounded Warrior Project to design a special flag-themed set of uniforms for the game.
One-tenth of the proceeds from the sale of replica uniforms will go to the Wounded Warrior Project, a public-service organization founded by veterans to support veterans who’ve been wounded on duty. And after the game, uniforms worn by players on the field will be auctioned off and 100% of that money goes to WWP.
An Under Armour spokesman said the program could raise upwards of $100,000 for Wounded Warriors.
But some don’t like the design of the special uniforms. A blogger on the Deadspin website wrote, “But isn't ‘flag covered in blood’ a little on-the-nose for something honoring a group that operates programs for injured veterans?”
The writer is referring to red streaks on the white stripes of the flag that at first glance may seem like blood.
The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff, tweeted Monday “Northwestern Honors Wounded Troops With Gore-Porn Football Uniforms." He called it “Not OK.”
But a closer look at the blue-and-white side of uniform shows similar blue streaks, which no one could mistake for blood.
Northwestern’s Paul Kennedy, assistant athletic director for communication, said in a statement that the streaks of red and blue represent “a distressed pattern on both the stars and stripes that was inspired by the appearance of a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time.”
Still, the university did acknowledge that some people may not realize what the streaks are. “We apologize for any misinterpretation,” Kennedy said.
Northwestern’s head football coach talked about the special uniforms at his weekly press conference.
“We are honored to partner with Under Armor and the Wounded Warrior Project on the 16th as we get ready here to play Michigan this week,” Pat Fitzgerald said. “More importantly, I think (it’s) a great statement from our program and Under Armor to support those that are out there defending our country.”
Under Armour's chief spokesman, Matt Mirchin, told CNN on Tuesday that the company designed the special uniforms, and both Northwestern and the Wounded Warriors Project were able to see the design and request changes. Neither did.
He said people are entitled to their opinion, but he sought to assure those who object that there’s nothing on the uniforms that is meant to represent blood.
“That was never the intent,” Mirchin said. “The last thing that we want to do is to disrespect or upset these heroes.”
ESPN.com has an unscientific poll on its website asking people whether they like the uniforms. About three-fourth of respondents said they do.