NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19: A general view of atmosphere during the unveiling of the NIKE+ FuelBand at Highline Stages on January 19, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Hoping for no change? You may be disappointed. Hoping for a myriad of crazy uniforms every game? You also may be disappointed.
What follows is not a story. I'm not going to go in-depth about the what these potential uniform changes may look like. If I'm adding value, I'm just transcribing and gathering. Really, it's just an amalgamation of rumors and interviews, scuttlebutt and hearsay that all lead back to a simple conclusion of what to expect with these impending uniform changes. So first, the background:
CNBC's Darren Rovell recently interviewed Nike CEO Mark Parker on some of their new products, the upcoming Olympics and, of course, the NFL Uniform contracts they'll be taking over this season. April 1 is the day Nike officially grabs the reins on NFL team uniforms, and on or around that day we can expect some unveilings to take place, including that of the Seahawks. The Hawks are one team that has been mentioned many times with regard to uniform changes, and there's been rampant speculation on what the future may hold, aesthetically speaking, for the team.
In the interview, which I embedded below, Mark Parker teases:
"We've innovated at a very high level, the uniforms are lighter, they're faster, they're better fitting. So, the athletes are actually very excited about what we're going to bring to the professional game. People are wondering -- what are you going to do? Are you going to get crazy with the uniforms? I think we're actually going to have some fun, but respect the tradition of these teams at the same time."
This seems to be a bit of spin by Nike, following comments to the contrary earlier in the year that raised some eyebrows and struck fear into non-Oregon fans that the NFL would become Nike's brand-new uniform guinea pig, a la Phil Knight and the Ducks.
Nike brand president Charlie Denson fueled that expectation soon after the five-year deal with the NFL was announced in late 2010, saying, "We plan on changing the NFL jersey dramatically just like we've done with the college programs."
An NFL spokesman downplayed that notion last week and pointed out that teams and the league determine their logos and distinctive markings, not Nike. "We anticipate new uniform technology (i.e., performance-driven, lighter materials). That's what Nike's [Charlie] Denson was referring to in his interview in 2010 regarding changes," Brian McCarthy, the NFL's director of communications, told NBC's ProFootballTalk.
So, what might we expect for the Hawks? Back in May, Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin had this to say about the upcoming changes, in an interview with SportsRadioKJR's Dave "Softy" Mahler:
"Starting in 2012 we're going to be going with a Nike jersey and a Nike design. So we've actually met with Nike, and I think we were the first NFL team to meet with them, and we had a fascinating session with them. Pete Carroll was in the room, John Schneider, all kinds of people, and we're looking at all kinds of new designs, and new kinds of jerseys, and we're talking about a throwback for sure. So there's a lot of creative stuff in the works right now."
Softy asked him to clarify, on whether that meant a wholesale logo and color/design change. McLoughlin replied:
"Certainly the logo is going to remain the same. When I say design change I mean you know you got a new manufacturer, in Nike, and they're looking at all kinds of new technology, it's really amazing all the kinds of stuff they can do. So we're working with them to see what it's all going to look like, and we're really pumped up about it."
More recently, little tidbits and rumors have emerged, and Danny O'Neil, of the SeattleTimes, reported:
"What we know: Nike becomes the NFL uniform supplier in 2012, taking over for Reebok. The expectation is the Seahawks will be getting new uniforms."
"What we don't know: What those uniforms look like. There are a number of drawings on the InterGoogle, but those aren't official nor are they believed to be close to the actual model."
"What we've heard: A little birdie gave out a few hints the helmets will be darker, and there will be some feather trim. The helmets are not expected to go back to being silver. But as McLoughlin indicated, it's not going to be a massive overhaul."
Regardless, we can expect the uniforms to look a little different. Whether that means "feather trim" or darker helmets remains to be seen, but if Parker is being truthful, they won't stray too far from the traditional look and logos associated with the Seahawks. According to UniWatch.com and elaborated on by ESPN's Paul Lukas excellently, Nike probably doesn't have much say in the matter anyway. Uniwatch and Lukas' reasoning:
• It's a long way from the NCAA to the NFL. People's perceptions of Nike, whether positive or negative, are driven primarily by the company's college football uniform designs. But the NFL is very different from the NCAA. For one thing, colleges are using newfangled uni designs as recruiting tools to attract 17-year-olds and to sell merch to 20-year-olds. But the NFL doesn't need to recruit anyone (players play for the team that drafts them), and the league's consumer base is, on the whole, older and less trend-driven than the NCAA's. Also, many top colleges change their uniforms every season, while NFL teams aren't even allowed to change their uniforms more than once every five years, so there's a lot more design stability in the pro ranks.
• It's the dog, not the tail: Nike (or any uniform company) can't just walk in and change everything on a whim. Nike, like any vendor, can only do what its clients agree to. And in this case the clients are NFL team owners, a bunch of very conservative businessmen who have enormous investments in their successful brands and who, in many cases, have owned their respective franchises for generations. These are not the kinds of guys who are going to put their teams into the Nike design centrifuge. Can you really see the Rooneys letting Nike give the Steelers a major face-lift? Or the Maras? Or the Hunts? No way.
• Historical precedent. It's easy to forget this now, but Nike outfitted many NFL teams back in the 1990s, and the world kept right on spinning. Now, it's true that Nike came up with the Broncos' current look, which was revolutionary when it was introduced in 1997. But think about it: Nearly 15 years later, not a single other NFL team looks anything remotely like the Broncos, which just proves the point that most NFL franchises prefer to stick with tradition. Will a few teams come out with wacky designs next year? Yeah, probably. But there's nothing new about that. Most teams will still stick with what they've got.
All this leads one to believe that while the uniforms may have upgrades in technology and basic fitting, the logos, color schemes, and traditions of any given team aren't going to be trampled over in order to sell more jerseys. Rest assured, Seahawks fans, most signs suggest it's more likely subtle changes await us, not the Oregon Ducks redux.