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How Patrick Ewing Changed the NCAA’s Logo Regulations

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Good morning, and happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m looking forward to seeing lots of green today (including on the baseball diamond, where spring training games are slated to begin this afternoon).

Meanwhile: As we all know, Patrick Ewing famously wore a T-shirt under his jersey while playing for Georgetown in the early 1980s. But here’s something I didn’t know (or maybe just forgot): His T-shirts originally had logo creep, which led directly to the NCAA’s current rules regarding commercial logos on uniforms.

Let’s start with Ewing’s T-shirt, which you can see in the photo above. In addition to the Nike logo on the sleeve facing the camera, you can see the same logo peeking out on the other sleeve. Here’s another photo with a clearer view of the two logos:

In addition to not remembering the logo creep on Ewing’s sleeves, I don’t even remember that sneaker-based Nike logo, in any context. (Also of note: Georgetown was using nameplates — rare for basketball!)

That double-logo undershirt ended up changing the NCAA rulebook. I learned that from a weekly newsletter called Athletics Veritas, which describes itself as being “aimed at helping higher education executives, faculty, and other stakeholders stay tuned in on trending national issues impacting college athletics, especially NCAA Division I.”

Last week’s edition of the newsletter, which was forwarded to me by Uni Watch reader Barry Quinn, asks whether it might be time for college sports to start allowing ad patches on uniforms. (Not surprisingly, the newsletter views it as “found money” and “potential riches” that “could have athletics directors salivating,” with no concern for any aesthetic or cultural implications.) Along the way, they explore the history of the current NCAA regulation on basketball uniform advertising, which bars commercial logos except for the following carve-out:

A single manufacturer’s or distributor’s normal logo, label or trademark shall be contained within a four-sided geometrical space (i.e., rectangle) with an area that does not exceed 2¼ square inches and is permitted once on the game jersey, once on the game shorts and once on all other items of apparel.

As the newsletter explains, the rule’s backstory can be gleaned from a lawsuit that Adidas brought against the NCAA in 1999. The newsletter quotes at length from the judge’s ruling (which was in the NCAA’s favor), but here’s the most pertinent section:

In 1977, the NCAA had no specific rule addressing a student-athletes’ wearing of apparel or use of equipment that bore a manufacturer’s logo or trademark. However, the NCAA Constitution prohibited student-athletes from promoting commercial enterprises. In 1978, a member institution questioned whether the wearing of a uniform bearing a manufacturer’s logo constituted the promotion of a commercial product. In response to this inquiry, the NCAA concluded that as long as the logo on the uniform was the same logo generally available on that product to the public, it would not be considered promotion of a commercial product. This rule applied to equipment as well as apparel.

The rule governing the use of logos on apparel changed in 1983. The precipitating event involved Patrick Ewing, a basketball player at Georgetown University. During a college basketball game, Ewing wore a Nike T-shirt under his uniform that bore Nike’s logo on each shoulder. When the Ewing incident came to the attention of the NCAA Eligibility Committee, which is made up of representatives of member institutions, the committee reviewed the logo question to develop a new standard. In its 1984-85 Manual, the NCAA changed its existing logo rule and included a case study, known as Case No. 40, to explain the new rule’s restrictions governing the size and number of logos that could be worn by collegiate athletes in NCAA competition.

Interesting! Sure enough, I found some articles from 1983 about Ewing suddenly being told to keep his T-shirts free of logo creep. The thinking, apparently, was that the T-shirt was neither an official part of the uniform nor a piece of equipment — hence no maker’s mark was permitted.

Again, I have no memory of any of this. I just remembered that Ewing wore a T-shirt under his jersey in college but wasn’t allowed to do so in the NBA (even though that look is common among today’s NBA players). Did everyone else already know this?

The newsletter also helpfully includes this graphic showing the current NCAA jersey regulations (including the size restriction for the maker’s mark; click to enlarge):

Meanwhile, you may be thinking to yourself — as I was — “Wait a minute, college football bowl game patches include corporate logos and sure look like they’re more than 2¼ square inches!” Let’s go back to the 1999 judge’s ruling:

In 1989, Bylaw 12.5.4 was amended to allow student-athletes to wear competition-identification materials such as football bowl-game patches that include the name of the event’s sole corporate sponsor. The NCAA allowed the wearing of bowl-game patches even though they represented a second commercial logo on the uniform and routinely exceeded Bylaw 12.5.4’s size restrictions.

Or to paraphrase Nancy Reagan’s press secretary, they set their own little rule and then they broke their own little rule.

As a parting thought: I suspect we’re going to see more rumblings about uni ads coming to the NCAA — in part because that’s just the trend throughout the sports world and also because the new NIL rules have stripped away the last veneer of amateurism in college sports.

(My thanks to Barry Quinn for forwarding the Athletics Veritas newsletter to me.)

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Green reminder: Just in time for St. Paddy’s Day, I’ve ranked the 35 best green uniforms of all time for this week’s Bulletin column. In addition to the usual suspects you’d expect to see from the Big Four pro leagues (including the Bucks’ famous “Irish Rainbow” set, shown above), the rankings also include entries from college football and basketball, soccer, lacrosse, cricket, boxing, golf, tennis, auto racing, horse racing, rugby, the Olympics, and more. Even if you don’t like green as much as I do, I think you’ll really like this one! I hope you’ll check it out.

This piece has already generated a lot of good comments and discussion. My Premium Subscribers can read it here. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do that here, but you’ll need a Facebook account in order to pay. If the Facebook requirement is a dealbreaker, email me and I’ll let you know about non-Facebook payment options and possible workarounds. Thanks!

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The Ticker
By Paul

Indigenous Appropriation: Arrowhead Middle School in Kansas City, Kan., will no longer call its teams the Apaches (from Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: Schools in Montville, Conn., will no longer call their teams the Indians.

Ukraine: UK telecom company Three has repeated its call to have its ad removed from EPL club Chelsea’s shirts immediately, following sanctions being applied to Russian oligarch and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Baseball: As of now, unvaccinated Mets and Yankees players will not be allowed to play in New York. … Here’s some great color footage of the Cardinals’ uniforms being hung in the players’ lockers in 1954 (from the great BSmile). … The 11 minor leagues will go back to their original names this season, plus there’s a new logo for the Pacific Coast League (from Mike Chamernik and Jason Hillyer). … The Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers will have corn-themed jerseys on June 11. … The Single-A Down East Wood Ducks have a new Mighty Ducks-style logo (from Brian Weingartz). … New uni number for Nats P Erick Fedde, who’s changing from 23 to 32 so newly acquired DH Nelson Cruz can wear 23 (from John Muir). … A group in Hagerstown, Md., is seeking to halt plans to demolish Municipal Stadium, one of the few remaining stadiums to have hosted Negro Leagues games (from Kary Klismet). … At the 32:33 mark of this video, you can briefly glimpse the only flannel uniforms that the Rangers ever wore, from spring training of 1972. “They had ‘Senators’ removed from the 1971 jerseys and replaced with ‘Rangers,'” explains W.W. McClyde. “The double-knits debuted with the regular season.” … As I predicted last week, one of this season’s newly scheduled doubleheaders will have a weird home/road split. Key passage: “The Tigers and Athletics will play an unusual doubleheader at Comerica Park on May 10, with Oakland the home team in the opener to make up a game from April 4 and Detroit the home team in the nightcap to make up a game moved from May 10.” Remains to be seen how they’ll handle the uniforms.

NFL: Yesterday was the 52nd anniversary of NOBs becoming mandatory in the NFL. … Newly acquired Broncos QB Russell Wilson tweeted a photo of himself and his family wearing his new team’s colors (from Marcus Hall).

Hockey: Gross: The Blue Jackets will announce their 2022 jersey partner advertiser on Saturday (from Mike Chamernik). … Green St. Paddy’s day uni for the Ottawa 67’s (from Wade Heidt). … The Maple Leafs will apparently be wearing St. Pats throwbacks tonight (from Kirk Burgess). … The Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, will also be wearing green for St. Paddy’s Day. … Speaking of the Leafs, gotta love the very subtle umlaut on G Erik Kallgren’s NOB (from John Muir). … New mask for Panthers G Spencer Knight (thanks, Brinke).

College Hoops: Here’s a uni tracker for the men’s March Madness tourney (from Brandon Wright-Rowan). … Here’s a ranking of the 68 mascots in the men’s NCAA tourney, along with a bracket filled out according to how tasty the mascots would be to eat (both from Kary Klismet). … … Unsurprisingly, the most common team colors in the men’s tourney are blue and red (from Colin McDonough). … “Virginia’s men’s team played Mississippi State in the NIT last night,” says proud UVa alum Jamie Rathjen. “The venue was switched because Mississippi State started construction on its arena, so Virginia wore blue at home.”

Soccer: Italian side Pescara has a new shirt celebrating — get this — the 10th anniversary of its kit-supplier deal (from John Flory and Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: Here’s a retrospective of Italy’s men’s national team kits over the last 20 years. … One more from Kary: New home kits for the Ireland men’s and women’s national teams.

Grab Bag: From our own Jamie Rathjen: “Apparently some Irish men’s county teams in both hurling and Gaelic football are wearing throwbacks this weekend for what would be 30 seasons of the National Football League (yes, there is another one) and the National Hurling League having their current advertiser. Any reason to wear throwbacks, I guess.” … The McLaren F1 team will now have Google-themed wheel covers (from @VictoryCB). … Dixie State University in Utah, which recently dropped “Rebels” as its team name, has replaced an on-campus sculpture of a Confederate soldier with one of its new mascot, a bison (from Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., is inviting the public to vote on a new mascot for the school. … NASCAR driver Ty Dillon’s latest car advertiser is — get this — Alsco Uniforms. Green paint scheme to boot! (From Mike Kowalski.)

Comments (31)

    Correction: Single A Down East Wood Ducks (not Storm Chasers) in baseball section of Ticker.

    Paul…the last sentence in the lede appears to be incomplete.

    “ The only question will be how much of the”

    Teoscar Hernandez is shown wearing a navy helmet on his bobble because last year the Blue Jays often wore navy helmets with their all white uniforms. This isn’t a mistake

    At the time Patrick Ewing was wearing those t-shirts under his jersey it infuriated me. I may or may not have come up with a neologism in my ire. My position was that the Georgetown basketball team did not wear uniforms. They wore biforms.

    Speaking of diacritics in Toronto Maple Leafs NOB’s, Ondrei Kaše (pronounced kasha like the deli side) also has a low profile accent mark


    Wow, two days in a row!!! I remember Ewing’s undershirt (and him NOT being able to wear it with the Knicks) but I really don’t remember this logo. And that’s odd because as a Pitt/Big East fan, I always joked he was around for like 7 years! LOL

    I want one of those hat bowls/stretchers that the Cards equipment guy from the fifties is showing! Great footage indeed!

    The animal tastiness bracket is great, but he has Akron as a rabbit, when there mascot is a kangaroo… which should have at least come runner-up to a hog. Fun concept where a little more explanation would have made it more humorous.

    Not sure why it specifically struck me today in the appropriation section, but seeing many schools go away from Native themed school mascots created a weird feeling of erasure of one highly visible aspect of Native American presence.
    I’d prefacing that I am not in favor of Native American appropriation, especially when it is highly offensive like Chief Wahoo or Redskins. But I guess I see how the Seminole tribe supported FSU, and wish that was the way this would go. Get rid of the offensive appropriation and logos, and have it be a respectful thing that actively has the Native American community participate.
    Since sports are such a big part of our culture here, having sports teams that constantly remind us of the Native American presence (both in their history and the shameful history of how we have treated them), would maintain high visibility to a group that seems often forgotten or ignored.
    Not being Native American I cannot speak for how they feel. And also I really personally don’t care if a team has to change their names. If native people just think getting rid of those teams is the best course I support that. But it sort of just struck me it would be great if the names could be used in positive light, to keep Native history highly visible in our daily culture.

    But it sort of just struck me it would be great if the names could be used in positive light, to keep Native history highly visible in our daily culture.

    I’ve never understood this notion that the proper way to give attention to a marginalized group is to name a sports team after them.

    I mean, why stop with Native Americans? Why not have teams named after other marginalized groups? Ladies and gents, I give you the Underemployed, the Opioid Addicts, the Homeless, the Neurodivergent, the Non-Binary, the Abused Spouses, etc., etc.

    Or maybe — just maybe — we shouldn’t think of sports team names as the solution for marginalization.

    While I think there is more nuance to this topic than those that are pro or con, I’d counter Greg’s comment italicized by Paul that in Pennsylvania alone there are numerous cities, towns, townships, boroughs and rivers with names that have Native American historical meanings.

    While I lay somewhere in the middle of the sports debate, I don’t believe this is a valid argument because it assuming sports nicknames are the ONLY thing keeping Native American history and culture alive.

    “I mean, why stop with Native Americans? Why not have teams named after other marginalized groups? Ladies and gents, I give you the Underemployed, the Opioid Addicts, the Homeless, the Neurodivergent, the Non-Binary, the Abused Spouses, etc., etc.

    Or maybe — just maybe — we shouldn’t think of sports team names as the solution for marginalization.”

    Paul, I can appreciate you don’t agree with me, but I feel that this response doesn’t actually address the point I was trying to make, and is discounting the question of if it is possible to turn a negative to a positive. I would never suggest the way to help the marginalized is to name a sports team after them, as opposed to actually do things that help them. But yet those names already exist in reality.
    What I am suggesting is that sports are high profile in this country, and we aren’t talking about giving new teams Native American names, but rather the fact that existing teams already have these names. And as I pointed out, names or logos that are blatantly offensive; Redskins, Indians, etc. should obviously go. However, given that the Seminole tribe and FSU clearly have a good relationship, I was simply wondering aloud if more could not be done to establish something similar with other teams that have Native American names.
    Whether it is some actual financial arrangement in the case of teams that make money off the name, or using it for an educational opportunity that otherwise would not exist, in either case this would be an instance of that marginalized group getting a benefit from the team, rather than it simply going away.
    My point was simply that if the Seminole tribe sees a benefit in this, would it not be worth considering if these established brands that have some value, could be changed from being a sign of appropriation to a source of good? Is eliminating altogether the only option? And once again, I would defer to actual Native Americans, I have no stake in these names, they do. And maybe the answer is to give them agency and power over the names? If the tribes are willing to allow usage of the name to remain, they would remain under whatever conditions the tribes choose.
    It seems intellectually dishonest to act like the only answer is to abolish all of these names (and I am not opposed to that) rather than give Native Americans the opportunity to take advantage of the names if they choose to.

    I appreciate the thoughtful response, Greg. But I strongly disagree with your (earlier) use of “erasure” regarding team renamings. To me, *that* is intellectually dishonest, because it implies (a) that team names are the only front on which Native references exist (as Kek has pointed out upthread, that suggestion is false) and (b) that name erasure is somehow commensurate with *human* erasure (i.e., ethnic cleansing).

    I hear this all the time from apologists for Native team names: “If we eliminate the names, how will anyone know about Indians?” As if team names are the proper public policy response for supporting a marginalized community. My hypothetical examples (Underemployed, Opioid Addicts, etc.) is intended to show how intellectually bankrupt that position is.

    I’ve long supported the Seminoles/FSU relationship (ditto for Utes/Utah, Chippewas/CMU) — whatever works for the tribes is fine by me. But let’s not pretend that mascot-ization is the right way to raise the profile of Native Americans or any other marginalized groups, and let’s further not toss around loaded terms like “erasure.”

    If you think it’s appropriate for non-Native high schools to keep Native-themed names, we can certainly agree to disagree. But the whole “How else will anyone know about Indians?” thing leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

    [I almost wrote something very stupid here before I realized that the link associated with the Apaches article is wrong. It goes to the same article as the following link about Montville.]

    In any case…

    I too have had the thought that future generations might look back on our attempts at not appropriating other cultures as erasure, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out (though I suspect it won’t really be apparent until our generation is long dead and gone). But at the end of the day, I think the deciding factor still has to be the feelings of the referenced culture. The only people who should have the right to decide whether the name “Apaches” is used are the Apache people. If they find the name denigrating, get rid of it. If they appreciate it and find it honorific, then keep it. It’s not as simple as “Native American references are bad” or “Native American references are good”.

    Naming a school’s team after Indians is not such a good idea. But naming the school after an Indian hero would be respectful. Goyaałé, Tamanend, Thayendanegea, Wilma Mankiller, Chief Joseph, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Sequoyah, Tecumseh, Sacagawea, and Red Cloud are great Americans worthy of acclaim. Their names should grace our institutions of higher learning.

    The town next to where I grew up is having a debate whether to change the high school from ‘Indians’


    and it’s kind of muddied by the fact that the individual who designed the logo is a member of a Native nation. A faction does use the argument to keep Native folks relevant, but aren’t there better ways to bring attention to these folks besides reducing them to mascots? Wouldn’t curriculum focused on their culture and heritage be a better way? If we need a logo to remind us of these people, then I think we’ve failed.

    They literally are not Indian though. That should be the starting point, whether you think using Indigenous names is appropriate or not.

    I do remember this issue with Ewing.
    I believe besides the logo they also enforced the rule of color on an undershirt. The requirement was the undershirt had to be plain & had to match the color of the uniform top. Other high profile players were wearing undershirts at the time (Chris Mullin for sure)
    In Ewing’s freshman year Georgetown wore light blue & white uniforms. Patrick always wore a grey t-shirt. This was when the color rule came about. Starting his sophomore year the team went to grey uniforms home & sometimes road. Was the G’town color change to keep Pat happy with his grey undershirt?
    Of course they also had navy blue option but they didn’t wear it often (kind of like the Cowboys).So in year 2 Patrick wore the grey Nike sneaker logo t-shirt. Then his final 2 years he had plain grey or plain navy to match the jersey.

    The Brooklyn Branches might want a word with the Down East Wood Ducks about poaching some aspects of their logos

    Hey Paul,
    With the NCAA Tourney going on, I was remembering the popularity of white painters caps that students and band members used to wear from days gone by (mostly 1980s), and just how they became popular in the first place. Anybody else remember them? They used to be pretty much everywhere. Now? You’d likely be laughed out of a building.

    I visited a buddy who attended Syracuse University back in the mid 80s. The only thing I bought was a Syracuse U painters cap as a memento of that trip. Like fanny packs they disappeared to never be seen again as a must have accessory.

    I’m a bit surprised to see that uniform company advertised on a car from the Petty stable (which should always incorporate ‘their’ shade of blue to some degree) and not on one of the cars from Childress Racing…which always look best in black, white and red.

    Just want to say that having a very informative and enjoyable lede which deals with NCAA basketball as the tournament is starting AND having it focus on an athlete named Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day is yet another example of Paul being awesome.

Comments are closed.