The Saskatchewan Roughriders have apologized after one of its ads drew criticism from fans who said it promotes negative stereotypes and toxic diet culture.

“We unequivocally apologize,” the message reads. 

Earlier this week, the football club sent an email to season ticket holders with an ad that read,”Proficient in girl math, it’s basically free.”

It is followed by lines that read, “Literally the best excuse for cute matching outfits” and “Take the stairs. Earn the seltzers.”

The ad pulls from a popular social media trend on TikTok called “girl math.” It’s a social media hashtag that is used when people explain mental accounting decisions that aren’t always mathematically sound.

An advertisement in green
A new Roughriders ad has drawn some negative attention from fans. (Saskatchewan Roughriders)

Some examples include returning a dress and then buying another item with the returned money, or preloading a coffee card and later buying a coffee, which is considered “free” because the money didn’t come directly from your account. 

One of the people who received the Roughriders’ email was Anne Marie Sauer, a 15-year season ticket holder with her husband. She was not happy when she opened her email.

“I lost my mind. It was a case of stereotype after stereotype, negative against girls, against women. I was gobsmacked that they would take that approach to their promotional material,” Sauer said. 

She also took exception to the “earn the seltzers” line.

“‘Take the stairs and earn the seltzers’ did it to me,” she said. “Toxic diet culture, how you have to look a certain way and you have to just eat certain things.”

Some other fans expressed their dismay on social media, saying the ad missed the mark and calling it “misogynistic.”

An email from the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club to season ticket holders on Wednesday.
An email from the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club to season ticket holders on Wednesday. (Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club)

In an email to season ticket holders on Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club apologized for their “playful attempt at ‘girl math.'”

“You made it clear it didn’t resonate with you, nor did it meet the expectations you have of how we communicate with you. We appreciate that guidance and will use this to learn and do better in the future.”

WATCH | Longtime Sask. Roughriders fan offended by football team’s #GirlMath campaign: 

Long-time Sask. Roughriders fan offended by football team’s #GirlMath campaign

Anne Marie Sauer says the Saskatchewan Roughriders need to retract their #GirlMath ticket campaign. Sauer says the campaign, which riffs off a recent TikTok trend, promotes negative stereotypes and toxic diet culture.

Vanessa Vakharia, who has a math tutoring studio in Toronto called the Math Guru, said that trends such as girl math reinforce the idea that girls can’t do math or manage their finances.

“It’s actually harmful. Sure, it’s funny, but it’s funny because it’s based on a stereotype,” said Vakharia, who has a master’s degree in mathematics and a degree in marketing. 

Vakharia said if the trend were “boy math” instead, it wouldn’t have gone viral because it wouldn’t riff on a stereotype.

She suggested giving trends names that are not gendered, such as “shopping math” or “deal math,” and said many people think of purchases in those terms — for example, thinking if you buy a car and drive it every day for 10 years, then it only costs $5 a day. 

“That’s not a gendered way of doing mental accounting, but it’s being positioned as something that only girls do,” she said. 

She said playing on stereotypes such as women watching their weight and wearing matching outfits to get girls interested in football is an out-of-touch approach. 

“One of the main reasons we’re finding that women do not enter a STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] field is literally this kind of stuff,” Vakharia said. 

“When trends like girl math come up, you’re just kind of like, oh my God, it’s like one step forward, 10 steps back here.”

A woman wearing an orange top, she has black and purple hair
Vanessa Vakharia is founder and CEO of the Math Guru, a Toronto-based tutoring service. (Racheal McCaig)

Some investment advisers and personal finance experts say “girl math” is a fun trend not to be taken too seriously. They say as long as the explanations are treated as just for fun, the trend can actually encourage financial transparency and open up discussions about money. 

Katie Lafreniere, an assistant professor at the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta, said while it’s always good to create a campaign to target different audiences, it would have made more sense for the Roughriders to focus this campaign on TikTok instead of sending it to season ticket holders.

“Season ticket holders generally aren’t young women,” she said, adding there’s a disconnect between the Roughriders’ brand personality, which can be perceived as rugged and masculine, and the ad. 

“It’s because it comes from a masculine brand personality that it comes off as a more sexist, controversial perspective, and if it was one of those more female brands, it probably wouldn’t have come off that way,” she said. 

The Saskatchewan Roughriders acknowledged this in their email to season ticket holders Wednesday. 

“This email, intended to be playful, was imagined, developed and deployed by women within our marketing team. However, we failed to recognize that the sentiments captured would not necessarily be perceived as coming from the creativity of women on our team and that our online ‘voice’ is one that is largely considered to be male,” the message reads.

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