Hamburg-based sports club St. Pauli is facing a backlash, and potentially legal action, from cosmetics giant Fa, following its latest merchandise venture.
The club, known for its left-wing leanings and for being unusually politically outspoken, this week launched "Anti-Fa," a line of shower gels and cream promising "wild freshness from the street."
The product's name is an abbreviation of anti-fascism — a nod to the club's political persuasion — as well as a reference to the left-wing extremist Antifa movement. And then, with the addition of a hyphen, "Anti-Fa" also appears to take aim at German shower gel maker Fa.
German company Henkel, which owns Fa, was not impressed.
In a statement on Twitter, the Düsseldorf-based firm said: "The sale of a shower gel with the product name 'Anti-Fa,' or the combination of the term 'anti' with one of our brand names is fundamentally not in our interests — regardless of the context in which it appears [or] the political attitude associated with it."
Henkel also said it had not been made aware of the product ahead of its release, and that "Anti-Fa" had proven to be a source of "irritation and misunderstanding" among its customers. It added that it "reserves the right to take legal action" to "protect the positive image" of its international Fa brand, which sells products in more than 100 countries.
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Criticism from AfD
The football club also copped criticism from Martin Hess, a politician from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who said it was unacceptable for "Antifa" be promoted as a cult brand.
By naming its product "Anti-Fa," St. Pauli "is showing solidarity with a left-wing extremist group," which is associated with "massive attacks — sometimes even armed attacks — staged against police officers," Hess said in a statement.
In response, St. Pauli CEO Rettig told the Bild newspaper: "Kudos to our creative marketing and merchandising department. If such people from that party get upset, we're doing something right."
He also confirmed the club was aware of Henkel's concerns and was in contact with the company.
The second division soccer club, better known for its social and political activism than for its success on the field, said its aim with "Anti-Fa" was to take a stand at a time when "Nazis are allowed to scream their right-wing slogans unobstructed and unchecked at their rallies, and when refugees are threatened and hunted."
It said the proceeds from its shower gel would go to the "Laut gegen Nazis" ("Loud against Nazis") campaign for victims of right-wing violence.