Back in April, a photo that was purported to show the colors for this year’s NFL Thursday-night mono-color games began circulating. In case you don’t recall, it looked like this (click to enlarge):
At the time, I cautioned everyone not to get too excited. For one thing, we didn’t know whether the information was legitimate. Moreover, even if it was legit, it said, “Subject to change” right there on the sheet. Naturally, that made no difference to anyone. For a week or so, everybody more or less lost their mind, all sorts of speculative articles and concepts were posted, and so on. Then people got distracted by other shiny objects and the uni-verse moved on to other things.
Fast-forward to last Friday, when another color guide, purported to be a “final” update of the previous one, appeared (click to slightly enlarge):
Once again, the sheet said, “Subject to change.” Once again, everyone went bonkers anyway, more articles were written, blah-blah-blah.
Both of the color guides were posted by a Twitter account called NFL Leaks, which is just what it sounds like: an account devoted to leaks of NFL-related information. It’s impossible to assess the veracity of the color guides, because we haven’t seen those uniforms yet. But the person behind the account — let’s call him the Leaker — also posted details of the NFL schedule prior to its official release. That info turned out to be accurate, so the Leaker gets some credibility points there.
The Daily Dot was intrigued enough by the Leaker to do a story on him two months ago. That story included some quotes from him, which to my knowledge constitute the only time he’s been quoted outside of his own Twitter account.
Until now. After last Friday’s leak of the updated color guide, I decided it was time to go to the source, so I contacted the Leaker via his Twitter account and asked if he’d consent to an interview if I promised to preserve his anonymity. He agreed, on two conditions: (1) He would not reveal his identity to me, either on or off the record, and (2) the interview would have to take place via Twitter’s direct-messaging function. I agreed to those terms.
The Leaker told me that he is a male living in the Mountain Time Zone. As you’ll see, he also said something indicating that he is a student, although it’s not clear at what level. Aside from that, I know nothing about the particulars of who he is.
One other detail, for what it’s worth: The Leaker said he’s a Uni Watch fan and reader.
Here’s how our discussion went (typos have been cleaned up):
Uni Watch: Let’s start with the basics: What is your connection to the NFL and/or Nike that allows you to have access to this sensitive information? And is the info that you post first-hand (i.e., you’re sitting in the meeting where things are discussed, the emails are sent directly to you, etc.), or is it second-hand (i.e., someone who was at the meeting describes it to you, or forwards the email to you, etc.)?
Leaker: My connection is second-hand — I know someone who works with Nike directly. I am provided with the information and (sometimes) documents.
UW: You sometimes post photos, like the photo of the Color Rush guide. Do you take those photos yourself, or are they provided to you by another source?
Leaker: The photos are taken by me. But today’s leak [of the updated Color Rush guide] actually didn’t come from my outside source. The original Color Rush sheet that I posted in April was sent to me via a PDF file from a URL that ended in “NFLCR_16-2.pdf,” so I copied and pasted that same URL and changed “16-2.pdf” to “16-3.pdf” — just to see if the file had been updated — and that’s how I found the new Color Rush guide. Then I contacted the guy I know who works with Nike and asked him if this was indeed the final version of the guide, and he confirmed that it was going to be the finalized sheet.
UW: Lots of people post phony info or hoaxes on the internet, and it’s natural for people to be suspicious and skeptical when you won’t reveal your identity. Why should people believe that the information you post is legitimate?
Leaker: If there’s a way we could come up with for me to prove it to you, I would love that. But the best way is probably to look back at my track record. The credibility of my account stretches back a few months. You can go back to the beginning and see that most of the tweets ended up 100% true and correct.
UW: Have you ever intentionally posted false information to your account, just to, you know, mess with people and see how they would react? (I’m not asking you to tell me what the false info was; I’m just asking if you’ve ever done that.)
Leaker: I have never intentionally posted misleading information, no. However, I have posted info that I thought didn’t add up, or where I had conflicting info from other sources. When this happens I always make sure to classify the info as a rumor. When I feel like something could be false, I make sure to let my audience know that. I would never post something that I knew was false — not only would that lose my credibility, but it would also completely defeat the purpose of what I made this account for.
UW: Regarding your Nike connection, is that person aware that you’re posting this information on Twitter? If so, does that person approve of you doing so?
Leaker: He knows about this, yes. In fact, he originally (jokingly) suggested it. We were talking about NFL jerseys and how he worked with Color Rush and I jokingly said, “We could leak a lot of stuff out there anonymously and people would love us!” So that’s how it got started.
UW: Regarding the secrecy of your identity: Are you worried about consequences for yourself, or is it more about protecting your friend? In other words, if your identity were compromised, would anything bad happen to you, or would it be more about your friend losing his job, etc.?
Leaker: If my exact identity was compromised, I could definitely be found liable for possibly copyright infringement and distributing copyrighted and sensitive information. However, the friend wouldn’t be in trouble, as we aren’t directly related.
UW: Since your connection is to Nike (not to the NFL), do you have access to other Nike information regarding college football, college basketball, the NBA, etc.?
Leaker: My focus is usually on the NFL, as that is my favorite sport and has the largest following. But if necessary, I could definitely get Nike info regarding other sports.
UW: When you posted the latest Color Rush guide, you said it was final “AFAIK,” meaning as far as you know. But given that they’ve already updated the specs from the April sheet, couldn’t they do so again? Or do you have any additional info that would indicate that this version is truly final?
Leaker: I used “AFAIK” because I am not directly involved with Nike 24/7, so I don’t always know exactly what’s going on. I knew from the start that the April sheet wasn’t final, for many reasons. The NFL schedule hadn’t even been released yet, for example, and it said right on the sheet that some teams hadn’t been contacted yet and that these were “suggested” colors. But all of that has now been changed on the updated sheet. All teams have been contacted, the schedule is out — I think this sheet is probably final.
UW: Have you seen any of the actual uniform designs, or just the color guide?
Leaker: I have not seen any actual jerseys, only the color guide. However, I have heard what a bunch of the jerseys are going to based off of.
UW: As you probably know, it appears that no NFL teams are getting uniform makeovers for the 2016 season, which is unusual. To your knowledge, is the lack of uni makeovers this season connected to the full-season Color Rush rollout?
Leaker: I’m not sure why there are no teams making uniform changes for 2016. I have not asked or even thought about whether it might be due to Color Rush, but that is definitely a very interesting question that I think I might have to ask next time I get the chance.
UW: Do you know when the Color Rush designs will be revealed? Do you know if they’ll all be revealed at once, or if the teams will unveil their respective designs according to their own internal schedules?
Leaker: Last I heard was that they would be revealed before the NFL regular season started. I am unsure how the unveiling process is going to work, but I do know that it most likely will not be week-by-week like it was last year.
UW: Do you have any good Color Rush anecdotes or stories that wouldn’t fit into 140 characters? For example, have you heard about a team changing its color, or about any problems with a particular team’s design, or any other behind-the-scenes developments?
Leaker: One thing I can say is that the home team for each game always got to choose which color it wanted, and the away team had to adapt to that. That’s why the Raiders are no longer gold and the Bears are no longer orange [both of which were shown in the original Color Rush guide that was leaked in April]. The Packers opted for yellow instead of green, forcing the Bears to choose navy instead of orange, because a yellow-versus-orange game would not work on TV. Same thing with Chiefs choosing yellow, forcing Oakland to change from gold to black. That’s why so much changed since April — once the schedule was released, there were so many conflicting colors.
UW: Why are you doing this? Like, what’s in it for you? Do you enjoy the attention? Do you enjoy the back-and-forth with people like me? Do you enjoy being “first” with sensitive info? (I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything wrong with any of those reasons. On the contrary, as a journalist, I understand the appeal of having a scoop! But given the apparent risks, I’m just trying to understand your motivations.)
Leaker: For a few reasons:
1. I like being the first to report things. It’s fun to see people’s reactions to things before official announcements are given.
2. I love seeing and showing what goes on “behind the scenes” of things. Not just the NFL, but other things, too. I like showing how things are made and how things are done that people aren’t aware of. For example, people can now see what Color Rush could have been back in April and how it changed between then and now. You can see how it evolved and what changes were made behind the scenes.
3. I’ve actually always had a desire to be a journalist and have been working/studying to become one, so it just feels like instinct to get inside info and get it out to the world. I feel it’s a duty in a way to report on things — not only things that are always visible to people, but also things that are hidden. It is freedom of press after all, right?
UW: To your knowledge, are people at Nike and/or the NFL flipping out over your account? Have they tried to contact you or shut you down? Or maybe they just enjoy the added buzz you’re providing..?
Leaker: Nobody from Nike or the NFL has contacted me, and to my knowledge they haven’t tried to get my account shut down.
And there you have it. One follow-up, though: At the conclusion of our chat, I told the Leaker that he could help substantiate his story if he’d be willing to send me a screen shot of an email exchange with his Nike friend, with the names and email addresses blurred out. He said he could definitely do that, and then volunteered that he could also provide a screen shot of the color guide PDFs, with all but the last part of the URLs blurred out. He never followed through on that. I sent him a reminder yesterday — no response. Obviously, that’s not a good sign in terms of his credibility, although it’s possible that he just got cold feet.
So do I think he’s legit? Yeah, I do, despite his failure to follow through on the screen shots. I think the story he told me is truthful. What is my basis for thinking that? Mainly just a career’s worth of dealing with hoaxers and bullshitters. The Leaker didn’t set off any of my usual alarms. Could he still be bullshitting me? Could the whole thing be an elaborate scam? Sure. But I don’t think so.
Of course, that still doesn’t mean that the info in the color guides will turn out to be what we end up seeing on the field. Like I keep saying, all you have to do is look at the color guide to see that it’s still all “Subject to change.” So I have no particular interest in discussing the colors that are supposedly assigned to each team. The uniforms will all be revealed in due course (and most of them will be terrible). There’ll be plenty of time to discuss them then.
So why did I bother to conduct and publish this interview? Mainly because I’m interested in the psychology of leaking (a topic I’ve been addressing for nearly 10 years now), and this was a rare chance to engage with a self-professed leaker.
Also, while this particular info is still subject to change, the Leaker may end up getting more definitive info (on this matter and/or others) later on. So I’m happy to have established a dialogue with him. I’m hoping we’ll stay in touch.
Raffle reminder: I’m currently raffling off a pair of green Adidas baseball cleats. Details here.
KRC update: The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles is about a key that opens police handcuffs (the little key at lower-right in the photo shown above). Check it out here.
Baseball News: Trifecta for Mets Police blogger Shannon Shark, who spotted a wrong-font numeral in an old photo George Foster photo, correctly noted that high-crown caps suck, and even more correctly noted that Keith Hernandez has no clue how to grill a burger. … The Staten Island Yankees will have a new team name next season. … In a related items, the New Orleans Zephyrs have named the seven finalists for their new team name (from Ryan Doyle). … Here’s an intriguing idea: an Astros football helmet with a tequila sunrise center stripe. … Speaking of tequila sunrise, check out this vintage ’Stros jacket — va-va-voom! (From Pro Football Journal, which, speaking of vintage MLB jackets, also provided this sensational White Sox shot). … The MLB Futures Game will have Padres-themed caps, just like the Home Run Derby. … Mets 1B James Loney, who usually goes low-cuffed, went high-cuffed with stirrups yesterday (from @BigCooonz). … Sean Gilmartin, recalled by the Mets two days ago, usually wears stirrups. But prior to yesterday’s game, he was wearing solid socks. He didn’t get into the game, so it’s not clear if this was just a pregame thing or if he’s changed his hosiery protocol (from @OnNebula9). … In a vaguely related item, the stripes on Rays P Chris Archer’s stirrups, which are usually blue, appeared to be grey last night (from Cork Gaines). … Anyone else think the number outlining on Tim Lincecum’s new Angels jersey looks a little thick? (From Shawn Hamm.) … When the D-Backs wear their black jerseys on the road and the umps wear their own black jerseys, the result makes it look like there are extra infielders out there (from Chris Short).
College Football News: New white helmets for Troy. … Here are helmet-themed 2016 schedules for the major conferences. … New uniforms for Charleston (from Brett Benes). … A professor and some of his students at Samford University have completed a study designed to measure, among other things, top recruits’ interest in whether modern college football uniforms affect game outcomes. They also conducted a Twitter-based “study” to gauge top recruits’ interest in alternate uniforms (from Wade Ford). … NC State will wear throwbacks on Oct. 8. There’s a video clip here (from @0nly9OsKIDZ and @interst8forty4).
Hockey News: New details about the Maple Leafs’ new uniforms are emerging. The unveiling is slated for tomorrow evening, and Phil will have full coverage here on Saturday. … Here’s more on those 1940s Dallas Texans throwbacks that the Stars may be planning. … Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton was wearing a Red Wings jersey the other day. … Some absolutely killer WHA program covers here (big thanks to Chris Mizzoni). … Key passage in this story about the NHL’s new Las Vegas franchise: “[Franchise owner Bill] Foley said he hopes to have a [team] name by the time the NHL season starts in the fall so the franchise can begin to sell jerseys and other merchandise.” Well, it’s good to know he has his priorities straight. … Meanwhile, the new Vegas outpost will give the NHL 31 teams. When’s the last time one of the Big Four leagues had a prime number of teams?
NBA News: Check out this T-shirt depicting a Cavs leg lamp. Apparently referencing this (from Barry Brite). … The NBA is opening its first retail shops in the Middle East. … Derrick Rose’s Knicks uniform has leaked (from Barry Rubinstein). … Did changing to the BFBS sleeves help the Cavs win the title? Shmaybe (thanks, Phil).
Soccer News: Mix and match: Some Nabisco packaging shows the old US Soccer kit with the new crest. … These next three are from Josh Hinton: Mats Hummels (Germany) and Will Grigg (Northern Ireland) swapped jerseys after their match on Tuesday. … New away kit for Sao Paulo FC. … Hertha BSC’s new home kit has leaked. … Iceland and Austria went color vs. color yesterday. … Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal, which has an interesting kit-related story (from Yellow Away Kit). … Windbreaker: A Swedish player received a yellow card for ripping a fart on the field. No word on whether Beano will now take over as the team’s jersey
sponsor advertiser. … A youth soccer tournament in Wisconsin this weekend will feature a lot of pink.
Grab Bag: The U. of North Dakota finally unveiled its new Fighting Hawks logo yesterday. Additional info here. … Good story on Las Vegas’s future as a pro sports city. … New logo for the Japanese restaurant chain Yoshinoya (from Taylor Nicolaisen). … New track and field uniforms for Defiance College (from Adam Trausch). … Rapper Snoop Dogg is trying to trademark a line of pot products (from Ted Arnold). … Here are the Indycar liveries for Road America (from Tim Dunn). … Several Nike-outfitted female tennis players are having their dresses for Wimbledon altered because the dresses are too skimpy and show too much skin (from Chris Flinn).