Bespoke ‘shoe artist’ Zebra Customs produced a pair of Nike Air Zoom Mercurial football boots for Wrexham AFC striker Paul Mullin earlier in the week, with a political message emblazoned across the left (see picture above) outstep of the boot.
The football club swiftly took to Twitter and banned Mullin from wearing the offending ‘studs’, adding “the club has adopted a neutral position on many matters with a political dimension”.
Mediacells applied its deep learning model True Sentiment, estimating fan responses to Zebra Customs’ tweet.
It was a tough call for the club to make and they acted swiftly and decisively in what at the end of the day was a no-brainer. Players and fans have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the club and its community, particularly younger fans.
Clubs are neither political institutions nor influencers – if anything, their fans buy into the stadium experience as an escape from the increasingly disturbing reality of real life, not unlike going to the movies or a gig as a means of being uplifted from the boring everyday.
The incident has transformed Paul Mullin from low-profile, lower-league striker to being most-talked-about Brit football player on prime-time American TV.
The immediate impact of the ban has had a similar effect on the terraces with the ‘inevitable chant’ resonating through the Racecourse Ground the same day as ‘Bootgate’ hit social media.
Although true sentiment may have been on Mullins’ side, on this occasion, if the custom slogan were permitted and set as precedent, younger fans could be exposed to more unsavoury messages surfacing on football players’ boots than tongue-in-cheek sloganeering.