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NFL approves multiple helmet colors starting in 2022

The change will bring back some classic looks but also opens the NFL to the kaleidoscope of Nike possibilities.

Beginning in 2022, the NFL will allow teams to wear multiple helmet colors, reversing a rule that had been in place since 2013. 

The league put the one-shell rule in place as a player-safety move, but the new rule will allow teams to follow the same safety protocols they've used for the past eight seasons. From Pro Football Talk, who broke the story: 

Teams wanted every player to have one helmet that fit him properly, and not to alter it during the season. But the new policy addresses those concerns by requiring teams to have a new set of alternate helmets for every player on the roster, to ensure that all alternate helmets are the same make, model and size as the player’s primary helmet, and by requiring players to get fitted for both their primary and alternate helmets at the same time in training camp.

It's too late for any changes for the 2021 season and, as explained here, it might also be too late for 2022, but we could very well see some or all of these classic kits back in rotation by 2023. 

Pats throwback
Bucs throwbacks
Cowboys throwbacks

There's more at play there than just throwbacks, however.

Approving multiple helmets won't just allow the Pats, Bucs and Cowboys and others to dust off their throwbacks, it would also free any team brave enough to trot out new designs. What would you think about, say, an all-yellow Steelers uniform? Or maybe an all-black Panthers or Saints set? 

Nike took over the NBA's apparel contract starting with the 2017-18 season*, and within three years a fairly standard aesthetic portfolio -- light at home, dark on the road, with a couple alternates thrown in -- has been completely tossed aside. Each team seemingly has four new uniforms per season, and each team can and does wear them at any time.

* Nike has been the NFL's supplier since 2012 and remains under contract through 2028.

Who'd have guessed three years ago this would be an Atlanta Hawks uniform? 


Do you have any idea who this fella in the black plays for?


(It's the Chicago Bulls.)

Nike took over the MLB's on-field apparel starting last season and -- wouldn't you know? -- they're hard at work Swooshing up the baseball aesthetic as well.

Behold, the Chicago Cubs.


Who doesn't remember the classic yellow and baby blue of the Boston Red Sox?

Red Sox

If you ever wanted to see the Chicago White Sox dress like a college team, you're in luck.

White Sox

It's not like these uniforms are bad. On the contrary, many of them are quite attractive. Nike wouldn't be Nike if they made ugly uniforms. 

But none of them are necessary. We all could've gone to our graves without seeing a yellow Red Sox jersey, a Bulls jersey with "Chicago Bulls" nowhere to be found, a Nets jersey repping the Bed-Stuy neighborhood.

Nike is in business for Nike. They deliver a product for their clients, and that product isn't a uniform but a Nike uniform. These uniforms aren't to be worn in the background, they're as big a part of the game as the teams and the officials. They're conversation pieces. A swoosh in every nook and cranny of the uniform isn't enough, the uniform itself must be an overt Nike advertisement. Having conquered the college sports space, the Swoosh now has its eyes on Oregon-ing the pros -- or at least as many pro leagues as will allow themselves to be conquered.

The NFL is famously, and smartly, conservative with its uniform changes, and with only two helmets allowed per season, there's a limit to how much Nike-fication can be done. But if the Cleveland Browns find themselves in an all-black uniform with a guitar on the helmet in 2025 or so, don't say you weren't warned.