Ty Phillips is a storyteller. The one that he tells about his connection to the sport of soccer is because of an old program supported by the Columbus Crew. Twenty years ago, the Crew worked with Kicks for Kids. They were a program that not only brought inner-city kids to soccer matches but visited them where they lived. Phillips remembers fondly meeting former Black & Gold players Edson Buddle and Jeff Cunningham through this program and learning how cool soccer was.
The sport has been part of his life ever since. Now 31 years old, Phillips plays in rec leagues around Columbus, even once with the wife of former Crewwinger David Accam.
His involvement goes far beyond the soccer pitch. Phillips created and ran a campaign between the club and local suit company Pursuit, he’s part of the Crew’s recent online video story series “To96ther” and through the company he co-founded, Columbus Speaks, he’s part of the creation of the first Nordecke jersey. This is a jersey that will bring back something that Phillips feels is essential to the identity of the Crew, and it isn’t a kit color.
“Working within the inner city, bringing the beautiful game to individuals who might not have access to it normally, is a passion of ours,” said Phillips. “We’re going to do that.”
Proceeds from the new Nordecke kit go to strengthening Kicks for Kids, a group that continued despite no longer being affiliated with the Crew. It’s going to be strengthened through Columbus Speaks whose mission is to “bring together our community to continue to unite and lift up the silenced voices in our society.” In came the Columbus Crew supporters’ community, the Nordecke.
In January of 2021, a small rectangle of the new Columbus Crew stadium kit leaked online. It created more questions than provided answers. Questions like “what about yellow?” or “will the team still wear yellow?” These sentiments weren’t lost on the Nordecke. It was the combination of potentially not having a yellow kit, and giving back to the community, that gave birth to the kit fans can now pre-order.
While the kit is yellow, Jeff Barger from the Nordecke doesn’t want anyone that sees it to think it’s to counteract the lack of that color that has so long been a part of the Crew’s fabric in the 2021 Stadium Kit. On the contrary, Barger and Nordecke leadership see it as a partnership.
“We wanted to do a yellow jersey and didn’t want it to be a direct jab at the club,” said Barger. “It’s meant to run alongside it.”
Barger stressed this point and that the relationship between the Nordecke and ownership hasn’t been better.
With their two goals in mind, the supporters needed someone to produce the kits. One local company has become synonymous with supporting the Crew, Supporters Supply, stepped up.
Ryn by Kevin Glenn, Supporters Supply outfits fans with shirts, scarves, hats, bumper stickers and anything else black and gold. Glenn’s design work has won multiple fan votes, for example, the 2021 new Crew Stadium season ticket holder patch and the 2021 Nordecke scarf design. To Barger and the Nordecke, his addition was crucial.
“Supporters Supply has been a great partner with us and the Crew community over the years,” said Barger. “It grew out of a supporter-led desire to keep our identity our identity.”
That identity began with the Nordecke asking Glenn what he thought would be a good design. He gave them seven. From there, they chose two. Phillips came in and brought his design expertise into the conversation, and they settled on the jersey supporters see today.
The first thing that sticks out is the color. It is named “The Yellow Kit” after all. Like everything on the kit though, the details behind its addition go deep. There’s a subtle hoop design of darker and lighter patterned yellow, paying homage to the Save The Crew movement.
“If we’re going to do a jersey again, the first Nordecke jersey and second Columbus supporter jersey, we should pay tribute to the first and the cause behind it,” said Barger.
In 2018, before the Haslem and Edwards families purchased the club, Save The Crew created “the Community Kit”. This was a kit with black and yellow hooped stripes, purchased by supporters around the world in an effort to keep the team in the capital city of Ohio.
Other design details that stick out are the badge and sleeve. The badge is of the Nordecke, the official supporters’ community of the Black & Gold. Above the Nordecke logo are two stars, representing the Crew’s two MLS Cup victories in 2008 and 2020. On one of the black sleeves is another Supporters Supply design, the outline of the state of Ohio, filled in with a black and yellow Ohio flag. On the back of every kit features the Nordecke and 96, honoring the first Crew and when the team began playing.
Everything about this kit is distinctly Columbus, even the fact that its creation wasn’t put onto an Adidas or Nike piece of fabric. Supporters Supply’s logo drives home that when you see this kit, you see Columbus. Phillips felt proud to be part of the jersey.
“I was honored that they reached out and thought we were the appropriate people to do it with,” said Phillips. “I’m super honored.”