This is seriously WTFish. Saw these in the kids department at a local department store recently. I’m trying hard not to go on a “wonder what’s wrong with kids these days” geezer rant. The better question would be what kind of parent would buy these for their kids.
Oh, my mom knows something? And what exactly pray tell, kid shopping in the kids’ department, does my mom know? You? Probably not. You in an intimate way? Almost certainly not. You may as well be wearing a T-shirt that reads “I Am Lying” or “Inferiority Complex” or “I’m Not Sayin’, I’m Just Sayin'” or fucking “SWAG.” I have had too little coffee to properly eviscerate a parent who would consciously consume this shirt with the intention of putting it on their own spawn. But seriously, WTF Nike?
Here’s the one that really gets me though: “PLAY ME OR TRADE ME.”
The phrase “Play Me or Trade Me” above a swoosh on a kids’ T-shirt has to be the saddest thing I’ve seen from consumer culture this week. 1) It reveals a microwave mentality that betrays the virtue of patience; 2) It is egomaniacal; 3) It speaks to entitlement, that despite there being 12-15 players on a given basketball team, nobody actually thinks of themselves as deserving to slot in anywhere lower than 6th on a team’s depth chart; 4) If taught by a parent buying this shirt, the statement reveals said parent’s propensity for getting in fights with little league officials and likelihood that this kind of bullying trait is already being passed down; and worst of all, 5) IT PRESUPPOSES THAT THE CHILD ATHLETE IS THE PROPERTY OF SOME ARBITRARY TEAM.
“Play me or trade me” is an ode to professional athletes with six-to-eight-figure annual contracts that become frustrated with their situations within their given team or club. It’s an old phrase meant to say, “Look, you’re paying me this money but you’re burying me in your doghouse. I’m good enough to play, so either play me or trade my rights to a team that will play me and pay me under the terms of my current contract.” The phrase in and of itself is not unreasonable. If the player uttering it were, say, the 11th best player on the league’s worst team, then yes, the phrase would be ludicrous. But professionals want to practice their craft, and riding the pine can be in direct conflict with certain pro players’ personal goals.
This situation can not, in any way, translate to unpaid children who are supposed to be playing whatever game it may be for the enjoyment of said game. Their rights are not owned, there is no standard player contract for kids. With regard to scholastic athletics, a kid typically plays for his home school district, with house leagues and travel leagues in the offseason. “Play me or trade me” is never an ultimatum that can even be posed to a kid’s coach, because there is no contract to play for pay. At least, there isn’t one for the ages of children that would fit into the T-shirts I was seeing on stunted mannequins, aghast with horror for the future.
This is just the latest in a long line of examples of disregarded self-awareness from the sports industry and the self-important, mindless consumer that is the American sports parent. Teaching kids to view themselves as the property of an organization before they develop the critical thinking skills to see why this view is akin to cutting their arms with forks down the street or across the road so that their blood can get more oxygen from the outside air and also that their every wish must be satisfied by the elders who are charged with molding them can only lead to a further gone generation of narcissistic little assholes that will grow up and aspire to business and political leadership that might make us long for the crazy, regressive days of today.
Stay classy Nike. Keep unconsciously consuming, sports parents.