Either in spite of or because of its monolithic status in 21st century American society, the National Football League is rife with problems. Mounting evidence links a career in football with long-term neurological issues. An autocratic, incompetent, pizza-hating commissioner presides over the league’s disciplinary procedures with the delicacy and nuance of a SCUD missile. Its draconian drug policy suspends players for having an amount of marijuana in their system that’s within the acceptable threshold for drug tests used by commercial airline pilots and the military while domestic abusers get off lightly. The list goes on. Even with notable NFL player/critic Richard Sherman emphatically declaring that players have no reason to trust that league officials are looking out for their best interests, it seems that fans would rather trade in their conscience for more of those sweet, sweet touchdowns.

This year, though, there’s finally an issue that’s bubbled to the surface. One that transcends the NFL and speaks to some serious divisions in our country. One that threatens the very foundation upon which American civil society rests.

I’m talking of course about the collaboration between Teespring, the NFL and a number of bad musicians to create officially licensed apparel that has no right to exist. They’re available for only a limited time1because nothing says “blatant cash grab” quite like artificial scarcity and the end of this promotion is more anticipated than the return of Tom Brady from his suspension this Sunday. None of these shirts are good(™), most of them are bad, and all of them are ugly.

Teespring

According to Teespring, I’m an alcoholic white supremacist who loves  nihilistic internet humor and  cats.

Some of the partnerships are so mind-numbingly stupid that you start to wonder if everyone involved suffers from CTE. Some affiliated musicians are such a bland and safe choice that you realize NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is the kind of guy who listens to Train and thinks “this is the most exciting music I have ever heard. I should make them an offer to participate in an astroturfed salute to the US Military that’s been subsidized by millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more questionable collaborations on this list to try to understand how and why they might have come about, and see if we can’t find a better option.  There’s no way for me to go back in time and keep Wes Welker from getting so many concussions that he thinks doing Molly at the Kentucky Derby is a great idea, but it’s not too late for me to right at least one of the NFL’s wrongs.

Detroit Lions x Eminem

Detroit Lions Eminem Collaboration

Really minimal change to the Lions logo here, which nicely mirrors the contributions Eminem has made to rap over the last decade.

Who should it have been instead?

Iggy Pop, the ageless, shirtless icon who in many ways invented punk rock as we know it. The last time the Detroit Lions won an NFL championship2I say that because this was a full ten years before the Super Bowl was even a thing Pop was ten years old, still known as James Osterberg, and presumably still wearing shirts. This year, he released and toured behind his 23rd album, meaning he’s more capable of showing signs of life at age 69 than Jim Caldwell ever has.

Chicago Bears x Fall Out Boy

Chicago Bears and Fallout Boy Collaboration

Between their lack of a defensive identity since Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs left town, a talented young wide receiver whose injuries have sidelined him for two straight seasons and the makings of a quarterback controversy between career journeyman Brian Hoyer and “Smokin’” Jay Cutler, this Bears season is Dead On Arrival. Better luck next year.  At this point, I bet there are more than a few Bears fans still holding on to th Mmrs of the days that Rex “Sex Cannon” Grossman was under center.

Who should it have been instead?

Chance the Rapper is an obvious choice: He’s proud of his Chicago roots, is committed to helping the underprivileged communities of the south side, and (most importantly) was born in 1993, meaning he’s a brand ambassador that won’t constantly bring up the ‘85 Bears as if they’re still relevant.

LA Rams x Linkin Park

Rams and Linkin Park Collaboration

Even though they peaked about 15 years ago, Linkin Park is still around despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to their absolute, crippling mediocrity. This is something that Rams coach Jeff Fisher strongly identifies with.  

Who Should It Have Been Instead?

Guns ‘N Roses, another LA cultural institution that faded away in 1994 only to come back for the sole purpose of a big cash grab in 2016. By moving the team, Rams/bad toupee owner Stan Kroenke also somehow managed to piss off more people from St. Louis than Axl Rose did when he tried to fight a fan, ended a concert early and inadvertently started a riot back in 1991, so that’s something they can bond over.

Tennessee Titans x Florida Georgia Line

Titans Florida Georgia Line Collab

NFL marketing exec: Let’s go with Florida Georgia Line for the team that plays in Tennessee, the Titans.

Intern: Wait… isn’t there a team in Jacksonville, Florida, located about 35 miles from the border with Georgia? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

NFL marketing exec: Shut up, nerd.

Who should it have been instead?

Since geography isn’t all that important, let’s go with Townes Van Zandt, an outlaw country musician who Wikipedia tells me was in or near Nashville at some point in his life. By nature of how they spend their Sunday afternoons, Titans fans are already well-acquainted with the idea of “Waitin’ Around to Die”  Waitin' Around to Die

TFW Townes Van Zandt plays a really sad song in your living room and/or you’re a Titans Fan

Tampa Bay Buccaneers x Underøath

Tampa Bay Bucs & Underoath

As a team that went 0-14 its first year in the league, and has finished last in the NFC South each of the previous four seasons, I think it’s safe to say that “I’m Content With Losing” is the official anthem of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Who should it have been?

If we extend the borders of Buccaneer country to Gainesville, I think Less Than Jake deserves a nod. Because just like that Super Bowl-winning Bucs team, <Jake is one of those bands where you go “huh. I guess people caring about ska was a thing that happened around 2002. That was kind of a weird moment.”

New England Patriots x Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys Patriots NFL Shirt

 

Back in 2011 a friend whose dad worked at a radio station got a few of us free tickets to a Dropkick Murphys show3would just like to clarify that I absolutely would not have gone if it wasn’t free in Boston that ended up being some kind of special party for the Stanley Cup champion Bruins. Beyond Shawn Thornton4career goals scored: 1 letting me touch the cup, the biggest highlight for me was watching now-Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker somehow get the mic just in time to sing the eponymous chorus of “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” –  clearly giving zero fucks after losing his first gubernatorial election ten months earlier.

None of that has anything to do with the Patriots. But it goes to show that the Dropkick Murphys are more of mascot than an actual band, and that they will never pass up a chance to make a buck off of their affiliation with Boston sports.

I’m also 90% sure the rest of the country would hate the Patriots at least a little bit less if the NFL’s broadcast licensing rights didn’t contain some sort of contractual obligation to play “Shipping Up to Boston” going into every single commercial break during Pats games.

Who Should It Have Been?

In a just and perfect world, it would be Boston-based rapper and internet jokester OG Swaggerdick. On the whole, Pats fans5Including yours truly, could stand to take their team a bit less seriously. Wearing some Patriots merch that says “Swaggerdick” might add some much-needed levity to Sully’s nine millionth rant about how the only balls that were under inflated during deflategate were the ones that Rawgah Goodell can now gargle.

Cincinnati Bengals x Walk the Moon

Why you gotta disrespect Harambe like that

Harambe didn’t die for this shit.

Who should it have been?

Though they’ve become the go-to soundtrack for Park Slope dads who primarily use their hands to push strollers and desperately cling to the very last shreds of their indie cred, all five members of The National have roots in the Cincinnati area. Plus “Cardinal Song” is the perfect sad-dad soundtrack for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals’ annual first round playoff loss every January.

Lol Bengals Lost Again

“Jesus Christ, you have confused me”

Philadelphia Eagles x Diplo

BRRRBRRRBRRRBRRRBRRRRRRRRRR

Like most Eagles fans, Diplo conveniently ignores the fact that he’s from Philadelphia until it’s suddenly a trendy, profitable thing to do. I’d be willing to bet if he watches a game this year, the first words out of his mouth will be “where’s the fat guy who’s bad at using timeouts?” There’s absolutely no chance the man born as Thomas Wesley Pentz knows who Carson Wentz is. His music and Philly sports talk radio also have a lot in common in the sense that they both have a poor grasp of African American culture and rely on a lot of loud, unintelligible noise designed to get out of touch white people way too excited.

Who Should It Have Been Instead?

Like most Philly teams, Modern Baseball are a bunch of scrappy underdogs who are used to disappointment. Improbably, 2016 brings with it a new sense of optimism. A reward for trusting a new process. Is Carson “Pete” Wentz the Holy Ghost? Only time will tell, but there’s no reason to hate worrying about the future in Philly for the time being.

Buffalo Bills x Goo Goo Dolls

#Googoodollsmafia

Nothing gets #Billsmafia fired up to body slam each other through plastic tables like the blood pumping sounds of “Iris.”  In the defense of the NFL and Bills fans everywhere, listening to the Goo Goo Dolls does make me want to smash my face into the front of a parked bus, so I guess they got that part right.

Bills Mafia

“Everything’s meant to be broken, I just want you to know who I am”

Who should it have been instead?

Every Time I Die is an infinitely better Buffalo-flavored soundtrack for getting blackout drunk in a parking lot and performing public sex acts.

Denver Broncos x OneRepublic

BroncRepublic

You’d think Von Miller and his hipster glasses would be able to come up with a band with more indie cred, or at least more music cred. Just like the Broncos winning last year’s Super Bowl, One Republic’s success is baffling, unexpected and infuriating from the perspective of a lifelong Peyton Manning hater like myself. And yet I’d willingly sit through an NFL game where every commercial was just him selling Papa John’s pizza to Nationwide Insurance customers if it meant I never had to hear OneRepublic again.

Who should it have been instead?

Duuude Pretty Lights is totally from Denver, how fuckin’ tight would that shirt be? Bro.

Indianapolis Colts x Fort Frances

Colts Fort Frances

I have never heard of Fort Frances. Based on their name I’m going to assume they’re some kind of unholy mashup of The Lumineers and Chainsmokers. Their most played song on Spotify is a cover of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime,” a 1991 song that probably passes for edgy, current hip-hop in the cultural black hole of Indiana6As Leslie Knope once said about the discerning tastes of Indianans, “People in this town are just now getting into Nirvana. I don’t have the heart to tell them what’s gonna happen to Kurt Cobain in 1994.”. I’m pretty sure that 167,000 of the track’s 168,000 total streams have been over the sound system of an Old Navy. Shit like this is probably the reason that Gary, Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs is a Bears fan.

Who should it have been instead?

Mouserat. But if the (incredibly arbitrary) “rules” of this collaboration forbid fictional bands, maybe Colts owner Jim Irsay can take a break from snorting Percocet off of the original scroll from On The Road to fart out a few Who covers and then hang a banner in his man cave that says “Teespring Shirt Project Participants.”

San Diego Chargers x Jason Mraz

Whose mans is this

I’ve tried very hard not to follow the career of Jason Mraz, so I had to rely on Spotify’s description of his work. Apparently he makes “laid-back/melodic pop with stylistic nods toward folk, jam band music, hip-hop and soft rock,” so if Sublime is just a little too edgy for you, Mraz is your man. I imagine “I’m Yours” was the song playing when each of Philip Rivers’ 19 kids was conceived.

More importantly, I had no idea Jason Mraz looks like an amateur sketch of a leprechaun. I’d like to imagine Boltman shed a single tear when he saw this shirt.

Who Should It Have Been Instead?
Blink 182 is the only other band from San Diego-ish that I can name off the top of my head7even though newest member Matt Skiba has made a career out of being very vocally from Chicago. Luckily it works, because both Blink 182 and the San Diego Chargers peaked in the early 2000’s and really should’ve just taken 2016 off.

Lecrae x Atlanta Falcons

Lecrae is trash

Hip-hop is synonymous with present-day Atlanta to the point that there’s a goddamn TV show about its rap scene simply called “Atlanta.” The rap world in and around Zone 6 features an eccentric collection of ebullient personalities, many of whom have transcended the region and ushered in truly global styles and sounds. The options in play here range from revolutionary preacher Killer Mike, to Dungeon Family legends Outkast, to absurdly prolific trap star Gucci Mane to the enthusiastic oddball Young Thug8I had to leave out Future, Migos and more just to keep the list from getting ridiculous.

So it’s pretty telling that the league went with Lecrae, whose main claim to fame from what I can tell is that he’s a wholesome, Christian rapper who wouldn’t dare to do anything interesting. You can call a shitty white fullback “gritty” and “scrappy” all you want: that doesn’t make him good. Just because Lecrae is “humble,” “plays the game the right way,” and would never set foot in Magic City doesn’t make up for a complete lack of personality, talent or originality when compared to his fellow ATLiens. It really would be a travesty if anyone in Atlanta gave a shit about professional football beyond laughing at the butthole-shaped retractable roof of their new stadium. 

Who should it have been?

Literally any other rapper from Atlanta, including Childish Gambino.

Wale x Washington R******

Sick shirt from 2008 bro

Much like using a racial slur for your team name, Wale’s rap career is an unfortunate relic of a bygone era. There was a time in my life when I was convinced Wale was the best rapper alive. This was around the same time that I was convinced Ron Paul would make an excellent president and that I should enroll at a very small college in the middle of nowhere9I transferred a year later, so you could say I wasn’t thinking clearly in 2008. Just like how The Mixtape About Nothing is still the best thing Wale’s done by a mile eight years later, the Washington Football Team’s best days are similarly behind them. Now, they’re more likely to make national headlines for their disastrous PR efforts or the way they ran an exciting black quarterback out of town, and the most effective way for Wale to get attention is to complain about it.

Who Should It Have Been Instead?

Though partnering with the NFL would contradict pretty much every ethical stand they took over the course of their career, I think Fugazi is the best inside the Beltway representative here. If only because then we would finally get an actual Fugazi t-shirt. Ian Mackaye’s other band Minor Threat would also be a viable option, because trying to convince a R****** fan that the team should change its name is like screaming at a wall.

 

So there you have it. If you buy any of these shirts, don’t be surprised if you get ruthlessly mocked at your next tailgate (which translates to “stabbed” in whatever language Raiders fans speak). Save the money you would’ve spent on a shirt and put it towards Sunday Ticket (which translates to “how to watch actual professional football” in Browns speak) instead. If you ignore that warning, may the vengeful god Tom Brady have mercy on your soul. 

 

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. because nothing says “blatant cash grab” quite like artificial scarcity
2. I say that because this was a full ten years before the Super Bowl was even a thing
3. would just like to clarify that I absolutely would not have gone if it wasn’t free
4. career goals scored: 1
5. Including yours truly
6. As Leslie Knope once said about the discerning tastes of Indianans, “People in this town are just now getting into Nirvana. I don’t have the heart to tell them what’s gonna happen to Kurt Cobain in 1994.”
7. even though newest member Matt Skiba has made a career out of being very vocally from Chicago
8. I had to leave out Future, Migos and more just to keep the list from getting ridiculous
9. I transferred a year later