When word filtered out a few months ago that some of this season's Thursday night NFL games would feature color-on-color uniform matchups, it seemed like a good thing. The league's longstanding rule requiring one team to wear colored jerseys while the other wears white is an antiquated protocol from the days of black-and-white television. With color-on-color games becoming more common in other sports and leagues, including college football, college basketball and the NBA, the time felt right for the NFL to join the party.
Unfortunately, the NFL couldn't do this the easy way, by having teams wear their standard colored jerseys. Instead, the league had its uniform outfitter, Nike, create new colored jerseys for the Thursday-night games, immediately raising suspicions that the color-on-color program was just an excuse to create and sell more licensed merchandise. Then the new jerseys were paired with matching colored pants and socks, eliminating any hint of contrast. The resulting initiative, called Color Rush (a name that has prompted mocking terms like Color Rash and Money Flush on social media), makes the players look like they're wearing bodysuit costumes, not uniforms.
The Color Rush program got off to a rocky start last night, with the Jets and Bills wearing solid-green and solid-red, respectively. As countless observers quickly noted, this color pairing would have made a lot more sense on Christmas than two weeks before Thanksgiving. Even worse, fans with red-green colorblindness complained that they couldn't tell the teams apart. This problem will presumably recur next Thursday, when the Tennessee Titans will wear solid-blue and the Jacksonville Jaguars will wear solid-gold, because some people are afflicted with blue-yellow colorblindness.
The concerns of colorblind fans are real and should be taken seriously. But the bigger problem with the Color Rush program, as with so many things in the uniform world these days, is that it feels calculated and scripted -- a corporate branding scheme instead of a fun way to jazz up the game's look. If you go back and look at those recent color-on-color games in other sports, for the most part there were no big announcements, no focus-grouped names like Color Rush and no newfangled jerseys to sell. The teams just showed up and wore their colored uniforms, providing a fresh look. What's so hard about that?
In fact, while the Jets and Bills were wearing their bodysuits last night, another color-on-color game was taking place. It was at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, where Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both wore colored jerseys. There was little advance fanfare, no slogans and no bodysuits. The game looked great. The NFL might want to take note.
Paul Lukas is not colorblind or otherwise visually impaired, although some uniform designs occasionally make him wonder if he's seeing things. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.