Is Ted Lasso’s Dubai Air a Real Airlines? Is it Really Destroying Environment in Nigeria?

‘Ted Lasso’ season 2 episode 3 takes a sharp turn into activism and gives it the show’s characteristic feel-good charm. The character of Sam Obisanya has always been AFC Richmond’s innocent and optimistic player who takes his game seriously but doesn’t get hung up on personal rivalries. He makes a perfect foil to bounce and spread Ted’s own sunny disposition and wisdom and has, in the past, even corrected the coach when he was possibly insensitive without realizing it — when coach Ted offers his players a small green toy soldier as a symbol of strength and the young player politely rejects it, saying he doesn’t have the same view of American armed forces as Ted does, leading the latter to a bit of an “aha!” moment.)

Sam’s tendency to be outspoken about what’s right shines particularly bright in episode 3 when he covers the name of the team’s main sponsor with black tape after realizing that the company, Dubai Air, is a subsidiary of an oil company that’s caused widespread damage in his native Nigeria. The rest of the team follows suit, causing a media flurry and possibly some deep repercussions that we will see in upcoming episodes. Stories of players using their platform to champion what they think is right is a popular phenomenon in the world, so we decided to see how much of Sam’s stand is based on reality.

Is Dubai Air a Real Airlines?

Dubai Air is not a real airline. However, it is undoubtedly used as a metaphor to represent the many large organizations that indulge in corrupt and environmentally harmful practices for profits. A good amount of this money is then spent on branding and publicity, hiding the company’s true actions and intentions and giving it an agreeable persona in front of the public. In the show, Dubai Air is owned by an oil corporation called Cerithium Oil, which has been causing widespread environmental damage in Nigeria while also bribing the nation’s government to help cover (and possibly continue) its illicit activities.

Sam, who is initially excited to be the new brand ambassador for the airline, is then informed by his father about Cerithium Oil and subsequently decides that he will no longer wear the subsidiary airline’s name on his chest. Of course, he also asks to be removed from the corporate sponsorship deal as the company’s poster boy.

Despite the companies mentioned being fictional, the show’s intent and the realities behind it are evident. The episode is the only one so far that is directed by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ezra Edelman, who won the accolade for ‘O.J.: Made in America.’ This hints at how serious the team behind ‘Ted Lasso’ was to add to an already widespread conversation about sports players and activism. The black tape that the entire team of AFC Richmond puts over its sponsor’s logo following Sam’s stand seems to echo the phenomenon of players “taking the knee,” which is now seen across the world in professional sports, including at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Is Cerithium Oil Really Destroying Environment in Nigeria?

During episode 3, Sam describes how the oil company that owns Dubai Air has turned his home into a “hellish, fiery swamp.” Though the oil company is fictional, the environmental damage in Nigeria due to repeated oil spills is an issue that has come into the public eye in recent years. Communities that otherwise have very little recourse against giant international oil companies have also won landmark cases and received millions in compensation. In 2021, the United Kingdom Supreme Court reportedly allowed a group of over 40,000 Nigerian fishermen and farmers to sue the Royal Dutch Shell oil company following widespread contamination in the Niger Delta due to oil spills.

Toheeb Jimoh, who essays Sam on ‘Ted Lasso,’ was born and raised in the UK but is of Nigerian descent. Both his parents are from the African nation, and Toheeb himself has lived there at one point in his life. It is, therefore, especially poignant for him to be able to use the show as a platform to shine a light on the atrocities and struggles in Nigeria resulting from oil spills.

Read More: Is Ted Lasso Based on a True Story?