Tradition wins out with Nike uniforms
Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 7:00 pm
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — For fans worried that Nike was going to give their favorite NFL team’s uniform an extreme makeover, full-blown Oregon style, no need to fret.
Ben Roethlisberger still looked very much like a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nobody would have mistaken Jermichael Finley for anything but a Green Bay Packer. And the Browns’ jersey wore by Joe Haden was still brown.
Going for a slightly sleeker but very familiar look, the NFL unveiled its new uniforms Tuesday. Nike, the league’s latest apparel maker, stayed away from the wildly experimental designs it uses with the University of Oregon, get-ups that sometimes make it hard to identify the Ducks.
“You look good, you play good,” said Finley, Green Bay’s star tight end. “Hopefully that kicks into effect this season.”
Nike put on a gridiron-themed fashion show at a Brooklyn film studio, with a player from each of the 32 franchises modeling his team’s new threads.
No, Big Ben, Ndamukong Suh and Brian Urlacher didn’t walk the runway.
Instead, after a handful of Nike big wigs worked their way through half-hour presentation that could have been dubbed “The Making of the Uniforms,” the players walked out onto an artificial turf-covered mini-field, suited up from shoes to shoulder pads and lined up in four rows. After the house lights went up, their helmets went on.
There were no surprises.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the goal of the redesign was to combine “tradition with innovation.”
“Some teams will lean more toward the traditions,” Goodell said. “But you can see here you can put innovation into the uniform without changing the look, necessarily, about it.”
In college football, flashy uniforms, with non-traditional colors and patterns are all the rage these days. Oregon, the alma mater of Nike founder Phil Knight, has made the cutting-edge — some would say over-the-edge — look its calling card. Nike outfits dozens of major college football teams and while few have gone all-in the way Oregon does, many are at least dabbling in funky gear.
Those gloves that create a school’s logo when a player hold his hands together, palms out, and which have popped up on campuses from Alabama to Notre Dame, will now be on display at every NFL game. And, of course, available in stores — along with all kinds of new team gear from jackets to hoodies to T-shirts.
But only the Seattle Seahawks, who took the unveiling of the uniform as an opportunity to start a rebranding campaign for the franchise, made significant alterations to their uniforms, adding some neon green trim down the sides of the pants and numbers
“I like the fact that there are teams that are pretty much staying more in line with where they’ve been and there’s other teams that are starting to push a little bit more,” said Nike CEO and President Mark Parker. “We see that happen at the college level perhaps even more aggressively.”
But I think you’ll see the NFL evolving and Nike being an exciting partner in actually helping make that happen.”
The Seattle uniforms, modeled by defensive back Kam Chancellor, were definitely a winner among the other players.
“Seattle has the hottest uniform right now,” Saints running back Pierre Thomas said. “So I’m a little jealous. But I still love my all black. I think it looks nice.”
Aside from a sharp look, Todd Van Horne, Nike’s creative director for football and baseball, said the players wanted the uniforms to be as light as possible.
“They don’t want anything weighing them down. They want to be faster,” he said.
The second-most important quality was fit. “They want it to stretch and move with them,” he said.
“It clings to your body so nobody can hold you,” Finley said. “It’s a real nice advantage. Because you get a lot of grabbing on the field.”
Browns defensive back and former Florida Gator Haden said: “They feel like a little better edition of my Florida jersey. More ventilation in them to keep you cooler.”
But they still look like the uniforms Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar used to wear for Cleveland back in the 1980s and ‘90s.
“The Browns, it’s all about traditions,” Haden said. “A lot of the Browns fans they didn’t want us to change up. They wanted us to feel better in the uniforms and to fit better and all that, but about the look, they really didn’t want you to change it up at all.”
Published in The Messenger 4.4.12