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Gone but not Forgotten: The 1991 Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks

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With XFL 3.0 now in full swing, a recent ticker mention of the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks got me thinking about all the defunct spring/summer (offseason) leagues that have been in existence since the WFL first broke on the scene in the early-mid 1970s. It’s been a pretty good number. But that ticker item got me thinking specifically about the WLAF (World League of American Football), which debuted in 1991. It was the first transatlantic football league, and despite growing pains, actually lasted for a number of seasons (either as the WLAF or in a later incarnation as “NFL Europe”).

While the uniforms weren’t spectacular by any means — and many considered some of the league’s logos to be clip-art — I was always fascinated by the logo and unis of the Skyhawks.

You don’t remember the Skyhawks? They were a one-year wonder, debuting during the WLAF’s inaugural season. The team was by all accounts pretty terrible, and they amassed a perfect 0-10 record that one season before folding. They might qualify as the worst team to wear a really good uniform, and they had one of the best logos ever.

Let’s start with the unis.

The team had a home and road kit, one helmet, and one pair of pants. Interestingly, the team used the pretty rare combination of red and green (with some black and white) as their primary colors and for the time, looked quite good.

The team featured a red helmet with a black/green/black center stripe, and a triangular-shaped logo rendered in green/black/white.

Jerseys were either red, with white numbers outlined in green, and a green/black stripe on the sleeve hem…

… or white, with red numbers outlined in green, and a green/red stripe on the sleeve hem. The white jerseys also featured color-block red sleeves. Jersey sleeves carried the same logo as seen on the helmet (reversed depending upon which side it was seen on).

Both jerseys were worn with white pants which had a red/black/green/black/red striping pattern, and players wore red undersocks beneath high whites.

Unlike a lot of more modern uniforms, there was actually a tremendous amount of thought (not storytelling) in them. Being basically the first professional team for the Raleigh-Durham area, the team was named “Skyhawks,” which was supposedly inspired by the Wright Brothers first flight in the nearby Outer Banks of North Carolina.

But what really gets my juices flowing is the beauty of the logo. Here’s a closeup:

That’s how the logo appeared on the left side of the helmet and sleeve. It was reversed for the opposite side.

There’s a lot going on here. First off, there’s the obvious: the logo features three triangular “jets” (with contrails). I always thought this was somewhat odd for a team that was supposedly honoring the Wright Brothers’ first flight. But I can overlook that for the other details it featured.

The design itself is a triangle, which was not chosen at random. That represents the three points of the Research Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill). And if you look at it just right, you can also imagine the left side and top of the triangle forming a lower-case “r” and of course the triangle itself could be seen as forming a “D”. Or at least that’s the way I always saw it.

Another uni-itch this uniform scratched was the red/green color scheme. It’s not unique to sports, but it’s rare. I can’t think of a single pro football team which uses (or used) those colors. Sure, the NJ Devils once (and for throwbacks) used the colorset, it’s used in soccer, and until this past Friday, the Red Sox busted out a red/green uni for St. Paddy’s day. We have also seen Mexico wear those colors for the WBC. There are other teams to wear red/green, but not very many. It’s a totally underused combination in sport.

Unfortunately, as noted above, the team was winless and folded after the 1991 season. You can see some game action here:

About the only thing I didn’t love about the team was the cringeworthy name of their cheerleaders — the “Kittyhawks” — but that was as much a product of its time as anything.

The R-D Skyhawks may not have been a success…but they did prove football could find a home in the state of North Carolina, and less than two years later, the NFL awarded a franchise to Carolina (the Panthers), who began play in 1995 in Charlotte. Sometimes really bad teams have really good uniforms and logos. The 1991 one-year wonder Skyhawks definitely fall into this category.


Looks Like Atlanta's City Connect Leak is Confirmed

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon the Atlanta City Connect (CC) jersey was leaked at a Nike shop (!) down in Hotlanta, and images were posted on Twitter.

Paul, who’s been on top of all the CC leaks for the past three years, did a write-up on the jersey, which you can check out here.

Obviously, it’s tough to tell what the full jersey will look like (as in, what’s on the sleeve, if anything?) from those, but we get a pretty good idea. As many on here have opined, the 1973-74 Atlanta uni, with its raglan sleeve design and sublimated “feather” graphic on the sleeve, was one of the best the team has worn (I considered it as my “signature” look for the team), even with the Native iconography. The fact that the immortal Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time Home Run record wearing it made it iconic.

The team has worn that 1973-74 uniform often recently as a throwback, and the CC uni obviously plays off that. I’m sure we’ll all be interested to see what the rest of the CC looks like, but this one could rank up there as one of the best so far.


Women's March Madness Tidbit

Got an e-mail from Sam Mostow who has some uni court-watching info from the Women’s NCAA Tourney:

I’m a student at Virginia Tech and noticed something interesting yesterday at the first round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament that I wanted to make you aware of.

In the past, I have noticed a “March Madness” logo decal on the floor at the first couple rounds of the tournament, which usually take place at the school of a high seed. I assumed, with all the signage and branded apparel the NCAA sent us in Blacksburg, floor signs would be among it. But when I got to the game yesterday, there was no sign on the floor. I attached a picture that I took of the floor, showing no decal.

But wait, there’s more! I saw a highlight later of the game, and noticed the floor decal! It must be computerized onto the floor, like in the NBA or NHL. I attached a picture of a highlight showing the decal.

Anyways, I wasn’t sure if you knew about this or not. But I found it interesting and shared it in the hopes that you might too. It’s a small, minuscule detail, but isn’t that what Uni Watch is all about?

Keep up the great work!

Sam Mostow


The Saints Came Marching In with this Ad

Got an e-mail earlier this week from UW contributor/pal Jimmy Corcoran. I’ll let him explain…

• • • • •


This ad is from 1969, probably one of the great deals of the 60’s would be to get a set of these NFL glasses for only 3.95, but a bargain at that price wouldn’t last long, the offer expires on Aug. 31, 1970. The agency that was in charge of making this ad was all over the place when it came to the equipment. You have a 1969 Eagles jersey that is correct, in 1970 they removed the stripes and added black trim to the numbers. There is a Steelers helmet that doesn’t have a number on the front, so this would be considered a preseason helmet since the Steelers put the numbers on when the regular season started. But the most interesting part of this ad is the Saints helmet, they decided to go without a facemask with this one but what stands out is it is the black helmet that the Saints didn’t get to wear, it even has the Saints decal on the side. The Eagles wore two helmets in 1969, the green with white wings and the white with green wings, it’s too bad the Saints weren’t allowed to also do it that season, that black Saints helmet would have looked nice.

Take care


• • • • •
Great find, Jimmy! Love the detailed explanation too!


Uni Concepts and Tweaks

Time for more Uni Tweaks from the UW readership.

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

• • • • •
Today’s concepts come from Jeffrey Kruger.

Hi, Phil.

Love this feature, pleased to participate!

Goal: Six hockey teams that could go color-on-color

Theme: Defunct Las Vegas Strip Hotels

My choices, and their specific branding style dates:

• Dunes – 1955
• Desert Inn – 1961
• Frontier – 1967
• Stardust – 1972
• Aladdin – 1977
• Sands – 1981

It was fun to collect various samples from photos and ephemera, and whittle down the assets. Most resorts had evolving color schemes, wordmarks and secondary identifiers to select from. Making it perfect for hockey sweaters, don’t you think?

Wishing you a fine day.

Jeff Kruger
Las Vegas, NV

• • • • •
OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.



Too Good…

…for the Ticker

Weekend warrior Chris Hickey often sends in fun items, usually (but not always) for the “Guess the Game” feature. In fact, what follows was actually included in one of his GTGFTU submissions, but I didn’t even realize it at the time. Here’s Chris:

Hey Phil

(T)he MFS’ home ice, St. Paul Civic Center, had see-through dasher boards.

Speaking of which, that’s my Ticker item…at a time when ads are plastered physically and now digitally on the boards, let’s reflect and remember the beauty of that arena’s clean and clear barrier system (see non-GTGFTU attachments…also enjoy the WHA ref’s get-up and the helmet decals worn by the Golden Gophers).

Have a great day!


Thanks Chris! We can only wonder if clear dashers would have caught on. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

And finally...

…that’s all for today, and for me for the Weekend. I hope everyone has a great Sunday and a better week!

Allow me to be the first to wish Paul an early HAPPY BIRTHDAY — it’s on Tuesday of this week. Unfortunately (for him), there is — at least at the writing of this sentence — a 0% chance for rain (or any precip) that day, at least where we live. If you’re not familiar with why that’s not necessarily a good thing, be sure to read on Tuesday and I’m sure all will be explained. So Happy Early Birthday, buddy!

In the WBC, the USA defeated Venezuela last night, so they will play Cuba tonight (7 pm ET) in the WBC semi-finals (the winner of that game will face the winner of Japan/Mexico, who play Monday night). The whole WBC wraps up on Tuesday evening.

I’ll catch you guys next Saturday — till then…



Comments (45)

    Phil wrote: “About the only thing I didn’t love about the team was the cringeworthy name of their cheerleaders — the “Kittyhawks” — but that was as much a product of its time as anything.”

    Actually, Phil, the name derived from Kitty Hawk, NC … where the Wright Brothers sent the telegraph to their father informing him of their first flight in Kill Devil Hills, just four miles away from Kitty Hawk.


    Now … could the name of those cheerleaders be construed as chauvinistic? No question given our evolution. But the cheerleader name wasn’t random, not by a long shot.

    I know full well how the name was chosen (and obviously the Kitty Hawk reference played that part), but you’re correct on the second part. The (possible) double-entendre of the name and obvious pandering to the male obsession of every team having a variation of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders makes it cringe-worthy. But yeah, I get where they got the name from.

    I must admit, I’ve never understood a) how comparing women (or specific parts of their anatomy) to cats ever made any sense in the first place, or b) how such a comparison could possibly be offensive unless you’re simply offended by nonsense. Is there something inherently negative about cats that I’m missing?

    see also Glentoran FC in the Northern Irish PL and Cork City FC in the Irish PL. Glentoran have a lovely kit history page here. link

    The WLAF as a whole had underrated uniforms. The Barcelona Dragons were excellent. The San Antonio Riders unis are equally terrific. As a kid, I loved the Orlando Thunder uniforms. Not so much now. But give them credit for doing the garish neon green thing way before the Seahawks made it..uh…cool?

    Or the Sacramento Surge.
    The logo was meh, but their unis were fantastic!

    The Skyhawks’ road uni is one of my all time favorites. Thanks for bringing them up, Phil!

    I still love the Orlando Thunder’s unis. IMO, Orlando’s use of white pants with the Neon Green jerseys and socks is a far superior look compared to the Seahawks’ mono Neon Green set.

    Technical issue – bad link on the word “triangle” in the following sentence:

    And if you look at it just right, you can also imagine the left side and top of the triangle forming a lower-case “r” and of course the triangle itself could be seen as forming a “D”

    It now opens to a Wikipedia “no hotlinking allowed” page. I can open and view the image in incognito mode, but it otherwise appears to prevent someone from opening the image in a standard browser because of cookies.

    Now it’s back to a spinning wheel of death. This might be an image. Just needs to be uploaded to a photo sharing service like Flickr or something. Frustrating! Sorry to tie up your Sunday morning with this!

    Great post. Cool uniform and log, indeed.

    In hockey of course there also were the Seattle Metropolitans were wore green and red. The color scheme is not uncommon in Europe. A few examples:

    Ak Bars Kazan: link

    Rogle: link (Bonus points? for appropriating the Edmonton Oilers logo)

    Hungary: link

    Bulgaria: link

    Great deep dive on the Skyhawks today, Phil! A fascinating exploration of an obscure team. I vaguely remember their existence with just a slightly less clarity than the rest of the largely forgettable WLAF, but I won’t forget their uniforms now!

    A thought on the Braves CC uni, just spitballing a idea and I know it sounds crazy.

    How about instead of making a New Jersey that plays off a twitter hashtag, just save time and wear the throwbacks that the fans love and look absolutely gorgeous.

    Why mess with perfection, the City Connect project has been a failure. Some gems but for the most part just awful.

    The Panthers actually began play in 1995 in Clemson, SC. They’re first season in Charlotte was 1996.

    As a Braves fan, the Atlanta City Connect is a massive disappointment. It looks like a knock-off team jersey you might find in a grocery store. And who knows, maybe that was the look Nike was going for.

    It just looks like some low-level staffer, with absolutely NO design sense, spent about 15-20 minutes on it and decided to called it a day.

    Also, don’t call it “Hotlanta”. I mean, talk about cringeworthy…

    The Vegas hockey concepts are fantastic. Next time you visit there, check out the Neon Museum, a graveyard of the old signage from defunct casinos. See it at night if you can!

    For me red & green is synonymous with Christmas, so much so that I’m not a fan of this color scheme because that’s all I can think of when I see it.

    It seems to me Europeans aren’t as hung up on Christmas as we Americans are, so the color scheme isn’t as fraught. Anyway, I thought the Skyhawks’ uniforms were excellent, particularly the helmet logo. Better depiction of jets than anything the Jets have cooked up.

    Sad but true regarding the NYJ helmet logo history, though I long for the jet-over-JETS one to make a comeback.

    There is a decent podcast series on the Skyhawks. It only briefly touches on the identity system, but is worth a listen. It is in the podcast “A Brief History of Triangle Sports” from Feb. 15 to this past Wednesday.

    “Black and white, red and green…
    The funkiest man you’ve ever seen!” – Prince, “Partyman” (1989)

    I didn’t follow the Waffle at all when it was around, but it has a noteworthy legacy for sure. It had a high uniqueness factor uni-wise- many uniform hits (R/D being one of course) but those clunky facemasks used league-wide were a big miss.
    Kinda wish the NFL Titans would have borrowed the Fire’s flames for their helmets instead of the thumbtack.

    Totally agree about the chunky facemasks. I always thought they looked like they might have been made by Tupperware,

    “I can’t think of a single pro football team which uses (or used) those colors.”

    Late 1960s/early 1970s Montreal Alouettes. Won a championship wearing it. The brief foray in to green and red thought to be influenced by major advertiser Labatt Breweries. The green and red same colour as the Labatt 50 brand beer.


    I always see the Dolphins when I see this jersey.

    I think a lot of CFL teams in that era wanted to look like NFL teams.

    Edmonton-Hamilton looked like Packers vs Steelers. Ottawa-Saskatchewan looked like the Giants vs Eagles.

    I have always liked red and green together, but I’ve never liked this uniform.
    When I say I like red and green together, I mean forest green. I don’t think red looks particularly good with kelly green.
    Also, I don’t like black as the third color. At all. There isn’t enough contrast between the three colors. Keep the red, swap the kelly with forest, and swap the black with silver. That’s the ticket!

    I’m not in love with that CC jersey to be honest. It feels like they needed to make the “A” smaller in order to fit “The” onto that side of the placket. I know they’ll never drop “The A” because “bRaNdiNg”, but if they made the A itself a little larger, I think that jersey could be a real winner.

    Not football, but the Milwaukee Bucks were originally red and green. They dropped the red and went to the full “Irish rainbow” in the mid-’80s, but brought back the red around 2010 before dropping it again with their current look.

    Two Triangle related comments…

    I nicknamed the Skyhawks the Skycaps, because they were always holding the bag. (OK, really bad joke!)

    Second, as with Sam’s comment re the women’s NCAA Tournament game at Virginia Tech, I can confirm that the same thing happened with the floor logo at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke last night. No floor decals in person, but they show up on the telecast.

    We also noted that none of the signage actually said “NCAA Championship” but only “March Madness.” Since this is the first year they’re allowed to use it for the women’s championship, they apparently went overboard with it.

    As a follow up to THFTT:
    While St Paul Civic Center was the first (maybe only) US arena to use clear plexi boards, the use of said dashers was preceded by the Makomanai Ice Arena in Sapporo, Japan (‘72 Olympic ice hockey venue):

    I have always loved vintage Las Vegas casinos and I’m crazy about these hockey uniforms. Sort of wish the Dunes utilized the iconic pink neon tower but that’s just nitpicking. Kudos!

    I moved to Raleigh in 1993, fresh in the wake of WLAF’s failure in the market and just prior to the Charlotte (note I don’t use that other “C” word) Panthers debut. In the process of making new-found friends here, I tended to notice a lot of interest in football, but virtually no one mentioned the Skyhawks unless I brought them up… and very few seemed all that interested in the Panthers, for that matter.

    I soon found out why, at least in part: Raleigh and Durham, as well as Chapel Hill, are *very* distinct cities, each with its own identity. And those who live in one? Don’t like being lumped in with the other. I’ve seen Durhamites be offended, sometimes much beyond a point of mere polite correction, when someone’s referred to “Raleigh-Durham.” I’ve seen Raleighites do so as well. Neither badmouths the other, but whenever someone uses the term “Raleigh-Durham,” it’s an immediate indicator that they aren’t adequately familiar with the area or its people. I’ve heard this said of “Dallas – Fort Worth” as well.

    In branding the “Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks,” WLAF was not only trying to sell the market on minor league football, but was doing it by offending some of the people it needed to attract most. The NFL’s expansion to Charlotte and the Whalers relocation to Raleigh during the 1990’s further deepened that mindset for some: despite being in the state for 30 years, the Panthers are viewed as “Charlotte’s team,” and I know of a few people from both Raleigh and Durham who’ve rejected the Hurricanes because Peter Karmanos didn’t commit to one of them when he headed south. The Durham Bulls? One of minor league baseball’s biggest draws. The “Carolina” Mudcats, which occupy a shared home territory with the Bulls? Don’t draw flies by comparison. The name’s far from the only reason of course, but it is a reason.

    Is it stupid? Yeah, probably. But when you’re marketing a professional sports team in a market, you should probably take at least some care to avoid offending it with your very name.

    The best thing about the Skyhawks is that their failure opened up the space for the Ohio Glory, the only pro football team I’ve ever actually cared about.

    As a Raleigh native, I recall the Skyhawks well. Clarkson Hines, Blue Devil legend, was the star and people here really loved the team while it existed.

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