On Friday night, tiki torch-carrying Nazis/white supremacists marched through a college campus in a show of force that grabbed national attention. By Saturday afternoon, a professional hockey team from Michigan had to publicly denounce Nazis to protect its brand.
The Detroit Red Wings released a statement on Saturday after images appeared online of Nazis carrying signs with a logo that looks very similar to that of the NHL team.
I’m struggling to picture how this went down at the Red Wings offices, but someone clearly took notice of the signs and online chatter about said signs and decided the team needed to respond. The Red Wings quickly put together a statement they released Saturday afternoon on Twitter where the team said it “vehemently” disagreed with the protesters at the UVA.
The logo isn’t exactly the same, mind you, but it’s close enough that the Red Wings are clearly worried the logo they’ve used since the 1932-33 season could be used as a hate symbol.
It’s probably not a great idea to walk up to these fools and debate the merits of copyright infringement at these kind of rallies, but the Wings are angry enough about their winged wheel logo getting confused for their signage that they issued a statement denouncing the group and threatening legal action.
Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski reluctantly looked into why Nazis might like the Red Wings logo, and that’s more research about a hate group than I’m willing to do so I’ll just let him explain some theories.
Here’s a theory: The winged wheel was a part of the logo for Deutsche Reichsbahn, or DRB, the national German railroad that was used during the Holocaust. You’ll see some of these logos have a passing-at-best resemblance to the Detroit Red Wings logo, but one imagines it’s a bit easier to get a magnetic Red Wings logo for your poster-board Dungeons and Dragons shield than something from 1937 Germany.
Another theory: White supremacists have adopted the name from “Operation Red Wing,” a 2005 incident during the War in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 19 Americans, many of them Navy SEALs.
The exact reason for the co-opting isn’t clear, but Detroit is right to get out in front of this from both a public relations and legal standpoint. Over the last year we’ve seen how imagery can be commandeered for purposes well beyond the original creator’s intent. Pepe the Frog started as a cartoon that morphed into a meme and swung to the alt-right to the point where its creator had to “kill” it and the Anti-Defamation League officially listed it as a hate image.
Later Saturday, the National Hockey League also released a statement condemning the logo’s use.
It would be much more difficult to turn a logo used by a hockey team for nearly a century into a symbol of hate, but it is 2017 and this world is chaos. I suppose stranger things have happened.