Don’t Mess With National Pride

In a simple tweet, the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) earned social media notoriety. 

Mexico and the Netherlands battled on the pitch in a World Cup knockout round match. Mexico held the lead for much of the game, but two late goal, one a penalty, helped the Dutch move on to the quarterfinals. 

The World Cup is unlike any other tournament on the planet. It’s unlike any sports league here in America. There is team pride. But, then there is national pride. National pride is on the line in the World Cup. And, you don’t mess with national pride. 

Initial reaction to the tweet was “oh my”. It was opportunistic humor. Part of me thought it was funny. But, part of me thought it was Twitter-trolling at its finest. 

It wasn’t that long ago that Delta received flack for a seemingly innocent tweet. People were up in arms over Delta’s representation of Ghana with a picture of a giraffe. A stereotypical assumption many said. Understandable perspective. 

To be clear, Delta’s tweet did not appear to be trolling Ghana. Lack of awareness? Yes. But, not trolling. 

By adding the “Departures” picture with an “Adios Amigos” immediately after the Netherlands victory, that’s pouring salt in a fresh wound. Painful. Heart-ripping. Right to the soul. 

And that’s how it is for sports fans. “We” give our souls to our teams, living every victory and dying with every defeat. Many fans define their very identity in their teams.

But, national teams are different. There is no “defining” necessary. Our national team represents our nation. They represent us. By birth or citizenship, we become part of it. They wear our colors. When they win, an entire nation “wins”. When they lose, the nation feels the loss too. At this stage of the tournament, the knockout round, it’s only amplified. 

Was the KLM offensive? Everyone has their own, personal take. The @ mentions I read mostly found the humor in it. Some didn’t. Apparently, KLM has already deleted the tweet. Considering KLM flies into Mexico City, it’s probably a good move, although the damage has been done. 

Here’s one last scenario to think about. One that could take place anywhere: NFL, NBA, NHL, EPL, MLS, MLB game. Wherever

You and your business partner (or neighbor or boss or ____) attend a game. You cheer for one team, they cheer for the other. Win or go home. Hard fought. Emotions high. The two of you were fully invested in the game. Questionable officiating throughout the game, including the end. Your team wins. You win. You turn to “your” opponent next to you and scream, “SEE YOU LATER, FRIEND” & point to the exit.

You cheer and laugh and dance with pure joy. Then you realize how bad they feel and say, “Sorry, man. That was a great game. Your team made it tough.” You talk it out. While they were angry for a few minutes, they see your happiness AND that you understand how they feel. 

THAT’s what we don’t get with the KLM tweet. We only get the trollish-feel to it. We don’t get the follow-up of talking it out. We only get the “SEE YOU LATER” screamed at us in the form of “Adios, Amigos”. 

Will everyone agree? No. I see both sides of it. Funny or not, the Royal Dutch Airlines found out the hard way that funny isn’t always funny when it comes to national pride. 

UPDATED: Hat-tip (h/t) to Twitter user @amolkold for this tweet from AeroMexico (a SkyTeam partner of KLM). Still no apology from KLM on their Twitter feed as of 1:30pm PT.


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