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Report: Texans Reached Columbia Blue ‘Compromise’ with NFL

As we all know by now, the Texans’ new uniform set includes Columbia blue — or, as the team calls it, “H-Town Blue” — as an accent color on the navy alternate uniform. That color, of course, was worn in Houston for many years by the Oilers. The Oilers later moved to Tennessee and became the Titans, who still own the Oilers’ intellectual property, including the old color scheme. That’s why the Texans can’t do a full Columbia blue jersey (and also why the University of Houston was threatened with legal action after wearing an Oilers-inspired uniform last year).

Even the limited use of Columbia blue in the Texans’ new set apparently required some negotiations between the team and the NFL. That info came yesterday from Texans owner Cal McNair in a radio interview following the uniform release. As quoted by Pro Football Talk, McNair said the following:

“We worked with the NFL, and there was some push and shove and we came to where we … could get to with the NFL, giving us a compromise, and sort of a certain percentage [of the color] in the uniform. And I think our fans would like more. And we’re probably in that same boat, but we’re working with the powers-that-be with the league and all that stuff to get to where we could get.”

McNair’s wife, Hannah McNair, then added:

“I think there was some talk. I think even publicly we discussed that we were going to be able to use a different color than Columbia blue, and so when that was released and we got approval to do that, that’s when we started getting pushback. … And then it got to a point where they just said, ‘No, you can’t,’ and then we compromised.”

So that explains why the Columbia blue component is so limited in the Texans’ new uni set. They were apparently limited to a “certain percentage” of the uniform being rendered in that color.

Meanwhile, the Titans added Oilers throwbacks to their wardrobe last season and will be wearing them again this year.

(My thanks to our own Mike Chamernik for bringing the Pro Football Talk report to my attention.)

Comments (51)

    I read that earlier today as well. My only thought is that they just needed to buy it from the Titans.

    FU Texans rather. City of Houston could have and should have negotiated that 20+ years ago. Plenty of examples of sports teams taking their colors with them.

    20 years ago Bud Adams and Houston were not on speaking terms. That’s why he left. It was an ugly divorce and the daughter is still seeking revenge.

    They will keep trying to hurt each other in any way they can, and as long as the NFL takes Adams’ side, she will win.

    Is it me, or is it strange how the Texans and Titans now have similar color schemes? Rivalries are best when they contrast each other. This is now the NFL’s “Superman vs. Bizarro” rivalry, I suppose.

    It’s also just weird how many times the NFL moved a team, knowing full well they’d expand right back to the city they were abandoning. Browns-Ravens, Texans-Titans. At least the Ravens let the Browns have their name back. Houston had to go with a name that could just as easily (and once did) apply to Dallas, or San Antonio/Austin should they get a team.

    The NFL probably figured it would have a team in Houston again someday, whether via expansion or relocation. However, at the time the Oilers left, that didn’t seem imminent. Bud Adams burned a lot of bridges on the way out. Getting the new stadium necessary for the return of the NFL to Houston seemed far off.

    The 2002 expansion that added the Houston Texans wasn’t supposed to put a team in that city. The NFL announced in advance that the new team would be placed in Los Angeles with two potential ownership groups bidding. Those two groups had such a bitter battle and so poisoned the water in LA, especially on the stadium front, that the NFL chose neither and put a team in Houston instead.

    I think Houston’s expansion bid might have been unsolicited initially before the NFL gave it official status. It was so much more professionally put together than what either LA group proposed that the NFL went with it over choosing LA for the sake of it and winding up with a bad situation. The league couldn’t afford to fail again in Los Angeles and let it stay dark until something better came together.

    The Ravens didn’t let the Browns have anything. The city of Cleveland sued the NFL and won. They were fully ready to become the Baltimore Browns.

    You are correct. In fact, Art Modell actually (and prematurely) announced the team as the Baltimore Browns.

    There is the Cincy/Cleveland example. Two teams who for over a decade practically wore the same exact uniform. On purpose to boot.

    For sure. This uniform would look much better with light blue numbers and accents instead of the red, but that would make them look just like the Titans who changed there helmets a few years back to Navy which makes then look more like the Texans, lol.

    I don’t get how they can do this. There are multiple black and navy blue teams.Why is that ok? Couldn’t they just use a different light blue? Why didn’t they raise a stink when the Chargers started wearing light blue again? This is extremely petty and juvenile.

    chargers have always worn powder blue though. they had just become the primary jerseys. two different situations

    I am confused about the legal side of this issue; how can a team have exclusive rights to a color? The 49ers wear red, and have been in existence far longer, but we don’t see them pushback on the Texans’ red jerseys (or other teams for that matter). Even if the Titans (Oilers) have the rights to a specific Pantone of “Columbia Blue,” why can’t the Texans or any other team just use another similar shade of light blue?

    Because the NFL were stupid and let a billionaire steal off to another state with the ownership rights to a name/identity they clearly didn’t value enough to keep as it was, *where* it was.

    If the Texans come out with a uniform set that looks too much like the old Oilers look, which the Titans own the rights to, then it could be easily legally argued it creates trademark confusion by trying to intentionally look like another brand, which of course, would be the entire idea of such a uniform.

    If things were done right, the Oilers colors/name/everything would have become inactive in 1997, Tennessee would have had to come up with an entirely new identity upon moving, and in 2002, if they wanted, Houston should have been able to revive the Oilers name (or take stewardship of it to use as throwbacks etc).

    If the position of emperor of American sports is ever up for election, I’m running on a platform that includes the Cleveland Browns protocol as standard procedure for relocations (and also 50+1 fan/community ownership for every team, and organized pyramids that utilize promotion and relegation, so relocations rarely, if ever, happen in the first place)

    Agreed. This idea that the Titans ownership want their cake and eat it too. If it meant that much to them they shouldn’t have left Houston. Ends aren’t meeting? They need the throwback revenue from a city they left? Laying exclusive claim to a color is absurd.

    If I were the Emperor of Lawyers I would get the Lions and Chargers to sue the Titans. These shades of light blue are closer to each other than kelly green is to the forest green that Nike imposed on the Jets to cut costs by standardizing greens with the Packers. (Or at least that’s what I heard happened.)

    That explains why on the H-Town uni set, the red numbers are trimmed in blue as opposed to the much more appealing opposite.

    Imagine if MLB told teams they couldn’t wear a combo of navy and red because one team owns that color…
    I’m all for trying to have each team with its own distinctive color scheme where possible. But this stance by the NFL is silly. It is one thing if they said “you can’t make an Oilers fauxback with a new logo on the helmet.” Or “we don’t want you to have a columbia and white uniform with red trim.” But to govern how much columbia blue they could use in there because it would conflict with the Titans and their rights to the Oilers IP is crazy.
    If the NFL wanted to actually do something interesting with uniforms they’d have the Titans and Texans each pick an Oilers throwback option (say 1997 for the Titans and 1960 for the Texans) and one of their division games each year would be a battle for who gets to wear the Oilers throwback in the second game of their series that season.

    Exactly. Luv Ya Blue was a thing that started with the Oilers’ fans, not Bud Adams. It’s their emotional bond. And when those fans, as voters, voted down a stadium handout specifically because they were sick of Bud Adams, he got back at them and made it the family vendetta to get back at them forever.

    By the way, I’d argue the reason for the new Texans’ uniforms getting such great reactions among Houstonians now is simply that, again, the fans were sick of their 2nd clusterf*ck of an NFL franchise and its own ruling family. Last year seemed to clear out the curse of Jack Easterby, but I think we want a clean sweep from the junior McNair. We want to have a normal NFL franchise, not a place where bizarre disasters keep happening. The problem is that we all migrated to Houston to make money, and the guys who control the money here are megalomaniacs who hold grudges, so this is what we get.

    It seems the Titans wearing Oilers’ uniforms falls under due diligence, insofar as just retiring the name and suing copycats is not protecting their intellectual property. I think the Cleveland Guardians periodically issuing Indians’ apparel is the same case.

    Late to this party and others have already chimed in with similar sentiments, but this is complete and total bullshit.

    No one owns a color — I could see if the NFL wouldn’t let them go with a specific “navy blue,” “Titans blue,” “Red,” “white” and “gray” combination, (link), but to not permit them to have light blue as a jersey color?

    How do the Chargers get away with wearing light blue???

    Fuck the NFL and the Titans, or whomever is actually responsible for this mess.

    First, “F-You H-Town” seems to be the official motto of the Bud Adams family and Tennessee Titans. The way the Titans cling to the Houston Oilers IP looks pathetic. I wish the Titans would just sell the Houston Oilers rights to the Texans like the New Orleans Pelicans sold the Charlotte Hornets rights to the then Charlotte Bobcats.

    Second, I think the Houston Oilers IP would only prohibit football teams in Houston from using the Oilers color scheme or jersey that is primarily Columbia blue. Also, the Houston Oilers IP would cover the use of any similar shade of light blue, especially when the intent is clearly to mimic the Oilers color scheme. Conversely, I don’t recall the Titans having a conniption when the Houston Rockets introduced an alternate uniform in Oilers colors a few years back. This is because people aren’t reasonably likely to confuse a basketball team with the Houston Oilers football team.

    Finally, the color scheme dispute between the Titans and Houston causes me to wonder how the Minnesota Wild were able to introduce alternate uniforms in recent years in the Minnesota North Stars colors.

    “That’s why the Titans can’t do a full Columbia blue jersey” — should this read Texans? Don’t the Titans still have a columbia blue alternate?

    I’m not an either-or guy on leaving the name and colors with the city. However, this one made no sense. They didn’t keep the Oilers name except in transition, and nobody thinks of Tennessee as oil country. This is just petty by the Titans owner.

    I double-dog dare the Titans to wear their throwbacks in Houston this season.

    A couple of things:

    1. Because the NFL were stupid and let a billionaire steal off to another state with the ownership rights to a name/identity they clearly didn’t value enough to keep as it was, *where* it was.

    The NFL lost the ability to stop these moves when Al Davis won his lawsuit in 1982 and was able to move the Raiders to Los Angeles over the league’s opposition. They’ll still try to keep teams from moving willy-nilly, and do what they can (like promising a new team) to avoid the $790-million settlement that they and the Rams ended up paying to St. Louis. And many owners will do what they can to remain good partners with their fellow owners. But individual owners ultimately have the upper hand.

    2. One thing we learned in the Tom Andrich interviews is how involved the NFL is in the uniform design process. So when the Texans wanted to wear Columbia blue, and the Titans didn’t want them to, it was going to fall on the league to mediate it.

    This is beyond stupid. That’s like if the Raiders had said no other team can wear black (which they probably did) and the league had upheld it, but now we have all this ridiculous BFBS.
    The Texans aren’t wearing “Columbia” blue it’s “H-Town” blue just like the Panthers are wearing “Carolina” blue or “Process” or WTH it is.
    Again, just makes Houston ownership look weak. They could have just said F it and rolled out the blue uniforms and the NFL wouldn’t have done anything about it. They aren’t going to cancel games over it and if they tried to fine them a draft pick or something it would create such an uproar because of how stupid it is that they would just have tell the Adam’s family to drop it

    Again, just makes Houston ownership look weak. They could have just said F it and rolled out the blue uniforms and the NFL wouldn’t have done anything about it.

    Well, no. Teams can’t just “roll out” whatever they want. Nike won’t produce it unless it’s approved by the league. Ditto for all the other merch licensees.

    Not taking sides in the color dispute; just explaining how things work.

    The only reason why the Browns identity stayed in Cleveland is because the city of Cleveland sued Art Modell and the NFL settled the lawsuit by keeping the franchise name and history in Cleveland. Maybe if Houston sued Bud Adams then they could’ve had the Oilers identity remain in Houston but they stopped supporting the team once it was announced they were moving to Tennessee.

    If there’s no other way now for Houston to get the Oilers identity back, then they should just accept and embrace the Texans identity in my opinion. But at least they got some of the Columbia Blue back with the new uniform, even though in my opinion I think they should’ve just let that go and let Tennessee have that color and embrace the Texans colors instead.

    Yeah I agree with that. If you can’t do a full on uniform the way you want I would just scrap it because only being able to use the color you want as an accent is kind of embarrassing. I still think it’s ridiculous that another team can have a monopoly on a shade of blue especially when it’s not even being used as a part of the standard uniforms color palette.
    Titsns have the worse uniforms in the league imo so the fact they have a say in what anyone else’s team is wearing is rich

    Maybe, and this is totally farfetched and not serious at all, the Texans should change their name to the Houston Derricks and change their uniform colors to sky blue, red and navy. Home jersey exactly like the old Oilers but a little lighter shade of blue. Assemble a good team and trash the Titans twice a year.

    The Titans organization has no class at all. The Oiler throwbacks are bad enough, but wearing them against the Texans?

    This is like if the Ravens had kept the rights to the Browns, refused to let the new Cleveland team be the Browns or use the colors, and then wore Browns throwbacks whenever Cleveland comes to Baltimore.

    Just let the Texans have the Oilers name and the color scheme and get your own.

    “Just let the Texans have the Oilers name and the color scheme and get your own.”
    Just let them have it. Merry Christmas. Wouldn’t that be something?
    Considering The Titans are one color (navy) away from The Oilers anyway that would be quite a gift.

    It is like the Titans are trying to wear their ex-boyfriends hoodie all the time even though they had an ugly break up. Just give it back.


    Looking at this Houston Alternate (which I think is hideous, along with the whole set being an epic fail), is this the beginning of Nike trying to do with the NFL what they’ve done to the NBA with the ‘City Edition’ nonsense? I’ll see highlights of NBA games and I can’t tell at all who it is by the uniform that they are wearing. I am VERY fearful that the same thing could happen with the NFL. That is a big reason I don’t watch the NBA anymore, along with the fact that the quality of basketball is horrible. I’m very hopeful the NFL powers-that-be do not fall prey to this Nike tactic. Thoughts from Paul or anyone else?

    I also see some royal blue in the new color scheme. I’m assuming the Colts and Bills now have a case against the Texas, too.

    The NFL is a joke.

    Since when does a color belong to one team. I can see logos but colors? There are many situations where multiple teams have black, navy or whatever. I can see logos belonging to a team but not colors. Seems kind of petty.

    Are the Tennessee Titans the only major pro sports franchise that has IP rights not only to a specific color but any SIMILAR colors to keep them from being used by other teams in their league or other leagues? Could any of their franchises make the same request? How could the NFL allow this to happen? How have the LA Chargers gotten away with wearing their fauxback baby blues which are quite similar to the Oilers columbia blue? Did they have to ask permission from the Titans?

    My guess is, no NFL owner has ever defined colors so broadly to attack another franchise. Because this is a grudge match that the NFL oligarchy was not designed to deal with, but also exploits the wildly out-of-control expansion of intellectual property rights in modern capitalism.

    Proof of this is that the NFL-AFL merger created no problems between NFL and AFL teams with similar colors. (Bills-Giants, Chargers-Oilers-Lions, Jets-Eagles, the ‘Skins making their colors much closer to the Chiefs). Even Paul Brown giving his new team similar colors to his old team was not blocked by Art Modell.

    I know The Titans are relatively small market and have relatively rare national appearances – but I would remind folks that they have been doing the “Love Ya Blue” thing for some time. They never stopped having elements of light blue – and for a stretch they pretty much only wore that color at home. Vince Young / Chris Johnson era. And it’s absurd to suggest they would just “give” anyone rights to The Oilers branding.

    I think a lot of folks are viewing this wrong the wrong way.

    First of all, we can’t compare what happened during the AFL/NFL merger back in the late 60’s today. It is a completely different world with completely different marketing strategies and money to be made.

    Second, this isn’t a “legal” issue or about one team “owning a color”. This is more along the lines of league policy and ensuring that the teams’ identities and trademarks are protected.

    Look at the color palette of every expansion team and rebrand in the last 25 years (heck, go back to the 1976 expansion) and you will notice that not one of those expansion teams used the exact same color palette of an existing team. Yes, there are similar color combinations (red, white, and blue of the Texans), but they have all been kept unique to protect the identities and trademarks of the existing teams.

    That is why I see happening here. For better or worse, the Titans got to keep the Oilers old color scheme and the NFL does want the Texans to convolute that by adopting a (nearly) matching color combination. Allowing it as a very limited trim color seems to be a compromise to give the Texans a little bit of love, but they couldn’t allow them to do a full jersey that would have conflicted too much with the Titans throwback (which I 100% agree is petty BS).

    To think this could’ve been avoided if they would’ve just built a new stadium to replace the Astrodome. Instead, the city loses the team, pays out the butt to steal a franchise awarded to LA, and then pay twice as much to build NRG than the original proposed stadium.

    I don’t understand why the Titans franchise gets a say in color options for other teams. What is so special about light blue? Colors are used by multiple teams in all sports. Why can’t the Bears hold up the Texans use of Navy blue? I could somewhat see if it were the Lions’ Honolulu Blue, and the unique shade the Panthers use, but Columbia Blue, come on!

    How does it hurt the Titans if the Texans have a light blue alternate jersey? 1/3 of the league wears navy blue and no one seems to care!

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