Yesterday I wrote about how Browns executive JW Johnson had suggested on Twitter last Friday that the team might be in the process of permanently changing its brown facemask to white. As I explained in that piece, the Browns are in a unique position because their primary logo is just the helmet itself, so changing the mask would also necessitate changing the logo, which is a more involved process.
I sent a note yesterday to Johnson, asking if we could discuss all of this in more detail. He said we could talk sometime in the new year, which I’m sure will be very illuminating.
Meanwhile, I also sent a few questions to Jonathan Wright, the NFL’s Senior Director for Uniforms and On-Field Products, who oversees any changes to a team’s visual program. (As you may recall, I published a lengthy interview with him back in August.) Here are the questions I emailed to him yesterday, along with his written responses:
Uni Watch: If any other team — not the Browns — wanted to permanently change their mask color, could they just do that on the fly simply by telling the league and moving ahead with it, or would that require a lengthier approval process? (I’m thinking about how the Bills recently changed their masks from grey to white. But they made that change at the start of a season, not in the middle of the season. Would changing on the fly in the middle of a season be permitted?)
Jonathan Wright: The helmet is part of the overall uniform design. A change to the helmet would be considered a uniform change. A full-time change in the middle of the season would not be allowed, barring some sort of extenuating circumstance that would make this change necessary.
UW: For the Browns, since changing the mask color would necessitate changing the primary logo as well, what sort of timetable are we looking at if they decide to go ahead with that?
Wright: This would have to be explored, but my guess is that it would be a two-year process, as it would be with any primary logo change.
UW: If the Browns wanted to keep wearing the white masks even before the primary logo had been officially changed, would that be permitted?
Wright: This too would have to be explored, as the Browns and their logo are a unique situation within the league. I can tell you we would look at all possible scenarios to make sure we’re addressing the Club ask, while balancing the possible discrepancies in the marketplace and how long that would take to rectify itself, if that makes sense.
The above scenario is definitely an interesting one that really needs to be discussed as its own case study and would challenge us to find the right course of action.
Faaaascinating. I should point out here that when I interviewed Wright back in the summer, he said the league took a less stringent approach to the Bills’ mask color change. Here’s the relevant passage from that interview:
Uni Watch: What about something that’s basically at the equipment level, like the Bills changing from grey facemasks to white last season? Obviously, that doesn’t have the same retail implications [as a jersey change], because you don’t sell helmets the same way you sell jerseys. Are you involved in that, and does that have to be in the pipeline just as long?
Wright: In theory, something like that has to be in the pipeline just as long. But there are certain cases — like, for that one, we didn’t constitute that as a uniform change.
UW: Oh, so that doesn’t reset their five-year clock for uniform changes?
I think the takeaway here is threefold: First, the NFL’s rules are at least somewhat flexible depending on the case-by-case situation. Second, the Browns present a particularly complicated set of circumstances because of their helmet doubling as their primary logo. And finally, judging by Wright’s responses, it sounds like any potential mask and/or logo changes for the Browns are still in the embryonic stages.
We’ll likely learn more when I talk with JW Johnson next month. I for one am looking forward to that!