The owner of Baltimore Blast, an American professional indoor soccer team, defended the team’s newly released shirt that ignited controversy for its anti-China sentiment.
The shirt, which costs $20, features an American flag with the word “Strong” and “Blast” written on it and at the back shows the map of China with a no symbol, according to Baltimore Sun
Edwin F. Hale Sr., the owner of the professional sports team, the Baltimore Sun that people who took offense at the shirt are “incorrect” as the symbol apparently points out the Chinese government and not the citizens.
“A lot of people thought it was timely, and most people thought it was funny,” he said. “I have a great affinity for the people of China.”
“It has affected our country to the effect that I don’t like it,” Hale claims.
The shirt was first listed on the team’s website in March. It was first reported that the shirt had sold out, but it appears as the team had removed the offensive apparel from its online store
“It was done in March by the owner as a tongue-in-cheek thing he created,”
Gianni Tumminello, vice president of soccer operations and general manager, told Baltimore Brew
Tumminello added that the shirt became available on the team’s website when the pandemic reached them in spring.
“It was forgotten about – out of sight, out of mind – after everything shut down,” he said. “It was done as a joke.”
It is unclear if Hale was the one responsible for the design of the shirt.
However, when Tumminello was informed about people calling the shirt racist, he said, “Well, it’s a free country. They can say anything they want.”
But when asked if he views it personally as racist, he replied, “It’s a weird time.”
Clarissa Chen, a member of the Chinatown Collective and Charm City Night Market, said the shirt echoes the same anti-Chinese sentiment expressed by President Trump when he referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus
” or “Kung Flu
“We’re not claiming the Chinese government to be without faults, but this graphic lacks nuance and does not open discourse,” Chen said. “Rather, it suggests exclusionary nationalism, which we cannot condone as a collective that promotes cultural exchange.”
Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, described the stigmatization of China while the whole world continues to battle the pandemic as “dangerous, reckless and racist.”
“Racism and xenophobia have no place anywhere,” Shelley added.
Hale remains unapologetic and said those who are complaining should “get out of the basement where they’re living.”
“I don’t care what they think because they’re wrong,” Hale continued. “They want to talk about me for being insensitive — what, are you kidding me? It’s not about the people. It’s about the Chinese Communists.”
The controversy came just a month after the team posted a statement
on its Facebook page supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and condemning racism in all forms.
“We stand arm and arm, hand in hand with those who seek to inspire change,” part of the post read.
As of March, the team’s season has been suspended during the pandemic, according to a letter by Hale