Racial equality is once again in the focus of the world's media, with sports teams and players beginning to play a central role in activism against racial injustice. In the USA, teams are boycotting matches to make a stand against institutionalised racism, with the Milwaukee Bucks starting the movement by refusing to play their NBA playoff game against Orlando Magic.
In the UK, the Premier League returned after lockdown with players taking a knee at the start of each game in response to the George Floyd killing, and a fresh momentum behind its 'No Room for Racism' campaign.
Last season, Coventry City and Hummel launched an innovative third kit to raise awareness of the issue of racism. The kit was designed in collaboration with Two Tone records, a record label native to Coventry that gave rise to bands like The Specials and Madness, spreading a message of racial unity through their music and iconic black and white imagery. The idea was suggested by Sky Blues fan Roger Smith, showing what's possible when clubs listen to their fans.
Coventry CEO Dave Boddy says “Then the Third Kit came along and really was unprecedented, and it is now I believe an iconic design not only for us but also in football and for the City of Coventry, supporting Kick It Out too and sending out a clear anti-racism and discrimination message." The club continued the campaign with a striking matchday program cover, with manager and players rendered in the two tone art style with signature poses and shades.
Symbolically, the shirt is half black and half white, with the two halves separated by the iconic Two Tone chequerboard design. The reverse features 'Walt Jabsco' - a fictional character who represents the music label's ideals, designed by its founder in the 1970s. The kit also features the logo of the 'Kick It Out' campaign, an organisation that's been challenging discrimination in football since 1993.
It may not be changing the landscape as radically as sports teams in the States are right now, but Coventry's thoughtful social tie-in proves that a football kit can be more than just a commercial gimmick to raise money for the club. It can raise something much more important - awareness of real issues.