In his most recent trip to the Octagon, Georges St-Pierre swirled in controversy over his relationship with Nick Diaz. He knew upon asking for that fight that trash talk and controversy would ensue, but what he didn’t realize was that his attire on the day of the fight would be a part of it.
St-Pierre, as he often does, wore a traditional gi to the Octagon at UFC 158. Only this time, it was a specifically designed gi produced by the popular fightwear company Hayabusa. The gi incorporated the Japanese Rising Sun design.
As Maggie Hendricks, writer for MMAWeekly.com official content partner Yahoo! Sports, reported, the Rising Sun symbolism wasn’t lost on fellow UFC fighter Chan Sung Jung, who wrote an open letter on his Facebook page to St-Pierre pointing out that many people, particularly in Asia, find the Rising Sun a highly offensive symbol.
“For Asians, this flag is a symbol of war crimes, much like the German Hakenkreuzflagge. Did you know that? I hope not,” wrote Jung.
“Just like Nazis, the Japanese also committed atrocities under the name of ‘Militarism’. You can easily learn what they’ve done by googling (please do), although it’s only the tiny tip of an enormous iceberg.”
As Hendricks noted, “The Rising Sun flag was used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II, and it was banned by the United Nations in 1945.”
The symbolism of the Rising Sun seems to have been lost on many of us in the Western world, and it certainly was on Hayabusa, who swiftly moved to rectify the situation. Hayabusa co-president Craig Clement released a statement accepting responsibility for the gi and apologizing to those who may have been offended by it.
Since Georges St-Pierre wore our walkout gi at UFC 158 we have received attention surrounding the negative connotation of the rising sun graphic used. The last thing we want is to offend or alienate anyone with the choice of design on our products.
We at Hayabusa have the utmost respect for culture and history and appreciate all of our customers worldwide. As such, we accept full responsibility for this design and are taking all complaints and comments very seriously.
The gi worn by GSP will not be brought to market. In addition, we will be very conscious of this specific design element when developing future communication materials and products.
Please accept our sincerest apology for any offense this has caused. If you have any questions or comments regarding this matter, please feel free to discuss it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our representatives will be happy to assist you.
St-Pierre, one of the most popular and well liked fighters in UFC history, a short time later added his own apology.
“I'd like to also personally apologize to anyone who was offended by this,” St-Pierre wrote on Facebook. “I am very sorry, that was never my intention.”
The tone of Jung's original Facebook letter to St-Pierre was explanatory in tone. He held up St-Pierre as “the best welterweight fighter in history,” and seemed more concerned with enlightening St-Pierre and others as to what the Rising Sun's symbolism means to a large number of people.