Skip to content

Some Thoughts About the Cavs’ Rock-Themed Uniform

There was one last spurt of NBA City releases yesterday — mostly stuff that had already leaked, including the Nets’ Jean-Michel Basquiat-themed design; the Cavs’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-themed design; the Warriors’ “We never wore ‘Oakland’ on our uni when we played in Oakland but we’ll wear it now that we’re gone” design; the Clippers’ “same as last year but now in black instead of white” design; the Timberwolves’ “Betcha didn’t know the North Star is actually neon green” design; and the Lakers’ white alternate plus script throwback.

I believe every team has now officially unveiled except the Knicks (whose reticence is understandable). The other 29 designs are all conveniently listed, described, and linked on this handy page.

Thank god that’s over with! But before we move on, I want to address something about the Cavs’ City design that I haven’t seen anyone else talk about, namely that rock and roll in general and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in particular are approximately the most un-NBA cultural totems imaginable, making this a very strange choice for the Cavs.

Consider: NBA players are mostly young Black Americans, and the league has pushed relentlessly to associate itself with hip-hop, Black street culture, and the pop culture of the moment. We’ve seen that with lots of previous uni designs — the Nets’ Biggie Smalls and Bed-Stuy alternates, the Mavs’ graffiti alternate, and more. But I’m not talking just about uniforms here — I’m talking about the NBA’s entire marketing ethos, which has embraced contemporary Black street culture.

Rock and roll, meanwhile, has zero current cultural relevance except as a relic of suburban White Boomer nostalgia, and the Hall is a monument to a bygone era. Think about your typical NBA player or fan — can you imagine them having any interest whatsoever in visiting the Rock Hall?

I don’t mean this as a criticism of either rock and roll (which is my single favorite art form, even if it has no current cultural relevance) or of the NBA (which, understandably, wants to be contemporary and appeal to the Youth). I’m just noting that an NBA uniform based on the Rock Hall is a very odd pairing. It’s like offering NBA fans a free subscription to Rolling Stone instead of The Source.

The Cavs aren’t the first Cleveland sports team to reference the city’s rock and roll heritage on their uniform. When Cleveland hosted the MLB All-Star Game in 2019, the Indians wore a commemorative sleeve patch shaped like an electric guitar — an instrument that has essentially vanished from contemporary pop music and has likewise become a nostalgic totem. But MLB’s marketing approach and cultural niche, for better or worse, is older and Whiter than the NBA’s, so the rock connection didn’t feel as incongruous on a baseball uni as it does on the Cavs’ uni.

On the other hand, basing an NBA uniform on a local tourist attraction fits squarely into what I’ve been describing for a while now as Nike’s “tourism bureau” approach to uniform design, even if it doesn’t make sense from a cultural standpoint.

One last thought about the Cavs’ design: At least one of the letters on the jersey’s ransom note chest insignia — and arguably the entire ransom note format itself — is based on the Sex Pistols. It’s worth noting that when the Pistols were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they declined to show up for the induction and instead sent a letter basically saying, “Fuck you.” I suspect they wouldn’t be thrilled about being referenced a Hall-themed uniform, either.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Waaaay too good for the Ticker: Clemson had six home football games this season. If you line up the six programs for those games in chronological order, their spines produce the team’s helmet stripe! How awesome is that?

I like this so much that I don’t even care about the purple!

(Big thanks to Cory LeFevre for bringing this one to my attention.)

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Headwear reminder: In case you missed it on Thursday, we’re now offering a Uni Watch toque! It’s available here. We’ll sell it throughout the winter, but if you want it to arrive by Christmas, you must order by tomorrow, Dec. 5.

In addition, we have a bunch of new Color Remix caps available in a variety of autumn and Christmas color combos. Check these out (click to enlarge):

Plus we’ve brought back most of the previous Color Remix caps. All of them are available here, with the same proviso as for the toque: To ensure Christmas delivery, order by tomorrow.

Meanwhile: Remember that we’re also taking pre-orders for Uni Watch hockey and cycling jerseys, all with your choice of number of NOB:

You can order these items here.


• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Magnet reminder: Yesterday I announced that I had 50 Uni Watch Winged Stirrup Magnets to sell (but none of the round ones, sorry). We’re now down to 24 of them, so they will likely sell out in another day or two. If you want to get in on these, full info is available here.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Membership update: Sixteen new designs have been added to the membership card gallery, including Steve Cecil’s card, which showcases the logo of the Seattle Sounders’ Emerald City Supporters club. I believe this is the first time someone has requested a card based on a supporters club — cool request, Steve!

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, frankly, could use your support these days). And remember, as a gesture of comm-uni-ty solidarity, the price of a membership has been reduced from $25 to $20 until further notice, plus a Uni Watch membership card entitles you to a 15% discount on any of the merchandise in the Uni Watch, Uni Rock, and Naming Wrongs shops. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me and I’ll hook you up.)

As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here (now more than 3,000 of them!), and you can see how we produce the cards here.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Pin Club reminder: Going fast … something-something … 44 of them left … something … available here.

Also, important: People who’ve collected all 12 monthly pins are eligible to get our Uni Watch Pin Club 2020 All-Star pin as a free bonus. If you qualify, you can claim your prize by emailing me with (a) your mailing address and (b) some combination of photographic evidence and/or receipts. For example, if you order the December pin today, you could send me a photo of the 11 pins you’ve already received plus your email from Teespring confirming that you ordered the December pin. Or you could wait until the December pin arrives and take a photo of all 12 pins. Or you can simply go to “My Purchases” in your Teespring account and take a screen shot of that. As long as you can prove that you collected ’em all, that’s what I’m looking for. Thanks!

• • • • •

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Paul, pinch-hitting for birthday boy Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: Cleveland team president Chris Antonetti, speaking with reporters during a Zoom call yesterday, said the team is “continu[ing] to work through” the process of evaluating the team’s name (from @spiders_six). … The new Frontier League team in Ottawa will be called the Titans (from @BallparkHunter). … We’ve plenty of old-timey examples of teams that had stacked lettering on the jersey placket (that’s one of Phil’s favorite uni elements!). But check out this 1913 team that had sideways placket lettering — not sure I’ve ever seen that before (from David Gehrug).

NFL News: This Sunday is the annual “My Cause, My Cleats” promotion. Remember all the hype when that program launched a few years ago? Hardly hear a peep about it now. You can see a lot of this year’s footwear designs here.

College Football News: This week’s No. 25 for Virginia Tech is LB Dax Hollifield, and the Hokies will wear maroon-maroon-white (both from Andrew Cosentino). … What do you get when you add No. 0 and a social justice NOB? Zero tolerance. That’s UNC WR Emery Simmons (from James Gilbert). … Speaking of UNC, they’re going blue-blue-white this week. … Awesome 1989 throwback helmet logo this week for Ball State. … Ohio is going BFBS (rare non-soccer contribution from Ed Zelaski). … Miami is going white-white-green (from Josh Lefkowitz). … Florida: blue-white-blue, including a new blue helmet (from @CanWeBeMature and Jeff Stark). “Check out this cool 1897 photo of Brigham Young Academy football team,” says Kary Klismet. “Of particular note is the way several players appear to be wearing their position initials on their sweaters, long before the advent of uniform numbers or other common forms of identification.” … Rutgers is going with a blackout uni this weekend (from Seth Kaufmann). … Virginia is going mono-blue. “An interesting subplot to these uni-announcment videos is that they’ve included the ‘Set the Expectation’ ribbon decals pretty much every time, but neither football nor any other fall sport has actually worn them this year,” says our own Jamie Rathjen. … Michigan State is going mono-green (from @SportsConcepts1). … NC State is going white-black-white — for the first time ever, according to Rex Henry. … Arizona wearing “Battle Grey” GFGS tomorrow night (from WrigleyMaddux). … Mono-grey for Oregon (from peeweereis). … “This sums up the state of sports graphic design,” says Trevor Williams. “A Texas A&M player jumping off a cliff in the Grand Canyon of Alabama to tackle an eagle.”

Hockey News: Thanks to a video game, we can now see all of the full Reverse Retro uniforms, instead of just the jerseys. The big eyebrow-raiser is that the Oilers are going with orange pants and white gloves (from Wade Heidt). … Here are our first looks at the Avs with their new pant, glove, and helmet colors. Basically, all of the elements that had been black are now blue (from Tyler Paul). … At least seven NHL teams are looking into the possibility of playing some of their home games at outdoor venues, which would allow for more paying customers than indoor arenas. That article also says that the current season-opening date of Jan. 1 remains in flux, and that a February start date might happen instead. … 1975 throwbacks today for Arizona State (from Eric Gamborg). … Holy moly, look at this amazing century-old hockey sweater! Very curling-like (from Kary Klistmet). … New uniforms for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. “There’s a new alternate black jersey, and the former red alternate becomes their primary dark jersey,” says Wade Heidt.

NBA News: NBA numerologist Etienne Catalan continues to deliver the goods regarding new uni number assignments. … Whoa, check out the crazy vertically striped warmup pants that the Suns wore in the 1970s (from Kary Klismet).

College and High School Hoops News: Some great uniforms in this gallery of old Utah basketball photos (from Kary Klismet). … Oklahoma has added a memorial patch for former coach Billy Tubbs (from Sam McKinley). … With UCLA’s apparel deal with Under Armour in flux, some Bruins players are wearing non-UA sneakers. Those photos also show how UCLA is using its social justice patch to cover the UA maker’s mark, which has been previously reported (from Brian Porreca). … NC State women’s G Raina Perez’s NOB was misspelled as “Pezer” last night (from Cory Lavalette). … Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was on the 1977-78 Harvard basketball team. Such an odd uni, with the closed “v” and the asymmetrical piping/trim (from Lance Harris).

Soccer News: Here’s more about how some of China’s Super League teams will have to change their names to remove corporate branding (from Bryant Singleton). … German side Hertha will wear the Hertha Kneipe logo on their shirts for the upcoming Berlin Derby. “The program raises money for Hertha fans suffering during the pandemic,” says Ed Zelaski. … FC Tokyo will now be outfitted by New Balance. … Dutch side FC Groningen apparently once had ads on their shirt collar. That photo on the left is from 2000 (from Jason Martin). … Due to a kit clash, Arsenal wore their away uniform at home yesterday against Rapid Vienna. It’s the third time in five seasons that they’ve had to do that (from @museumofjerseys). … Manchester United’s 2021-22 home kit will remain the same shade of red (thanks, Anthony). … This article is in German, but Ed Zelaski says it’s about why St. Pauli’s new on-field shirt has heat-pressed graphics instead of sewn-on. … The Columbus Crew are asking for the public’s input regarding a jersey patch to commemorate the opening of their new stadium next season (from Kary Klismet). … New home kit for New Zealand side Wellington Phoenix (from @MadMaclegend). … New third shirt for FC Copenhagen (Ed Zelaski again).

Grab Bag: New city flag for Jenks, Okla. (from Timmy Donahue). … A ranking of Formula E liveries? Sure, why not (from ST Jacobson). … Here’s a roundup of World Cup cross-country skiing uniforms (from Gavin Kentch). … I don’t think we’ve ever had anything on Uni Watch about motorcycle racing leathers, until now (from Graham Clayton).

• • • • •

• • • • •

• • • • •

Our latest raffle winner is Patrick Sesty, who’s won himself six months of New York Times digital access. Congrats, Patrick!

We’ll have lots of new raffles next week, plus the annual year-end raffle the week after that. Until then, stay safe, enjoy Phil’s weekend content, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. — Paul

Comments (102)

    Proof reading: In the ticker, we have “Michigan” is mono-green. Should be Michigan State.

    Re the Reverse Retro full looks: loving the Wild and Devils. I also love the Rangers’ lady liberty, although I know not everyone is a fan.

    From action photos in the video game, it does look like the Wild may be going with stars on side of the pants as the North Stars did for a number of seasons. Though with the video game unis there may be some minor details that might not be accurate.

    A lot of these uniforms would be great as regular alternates or even as new primary uniforms. I would be up for Panthers, Lightning, and Kings switching to these uniforms (with some tinkering) to become their new primary uniforms. For the Lightning, they can still wear blue, it is a throwback to the traditional look, and would not look so much like the Maple Leafs which has always been a criticism of their current look.

    Now that the Bruins have yellow socks back, I hope they end up inclined to do what is right and go back to wearing yellow socks with black jerseys.

    Counterpoint of sorts:

    The Rock and Roll HOF includes plenty of black artists and hip hop icons that still resonate with NBA crowd. Notorious B.I.G. is an inductee this year. Tupac, N.W.A., and Run DMC are all past inductees. Rock and Roll hall isn’t strictly literally Rock and Roll.

    Sure, but look at the artists whose wordmarks they used for the chest lettering:

    Sex Pistols
    Pink Floyd
    The Who
    David Bowie

    In short: White Boomer nostalgia, with a gesture of tokenism for Black cred. (That sentence could also apply to the Hall itself.)

    Yeah, that’s Gen Xer nostalgia there. Not sure if Nirvana transcended the white/Black divide in our generation, though. None of my white friends were Nirvana fans at the time. Most of the crowd I hung with was more into R&B, while I was going ever deeper into older punk and new wave.

    Do you see Led Zeppelin in the second L? I sure don’t. The stroke is too thick and there are no visible serifs on the letterform. I’ll give you Nirvana and the Sex Pistols; they took liberties with the NWA “N”. To address your point, they could have made a more inclusive attempt to work in Black RRHOFers into the wordmark. I guess their focus group voted that down?
    Also, the NBA Reverse Retro link is still dead for me.

    Paul, with all due respect, what exactly is your definition of “contemporary Black street culture”? The R&R HoF isn’t just a bunch of old fogie bands from the 70’s, it regularly inducts the very same black artists (including Biggie Smalls, who influenced the Nets “Brooklyn camo” uniform) that likely comprise your definition of “contemporary Black street culture”. BTW, the “N” in the Cleveland jersey also is an ode to a black group (NWA) which is also in the R&R HoF.

    Also: Black people invented Rock & Roll!!! Full Stop.

    The assertion that the typical NBA fan (most of whole are white, BTW) would be culturally disinterested in the Cavs uni is a little misguided. Unless the Cavs fire in-game DJ Steph Floss and replace him with a Twisted Sister cover band, I don’t think there will be anything lost here.

    The only issue here is the uniform design is both boring AND tacky. That’s it, and that’s all.

    This one mighta been better left in “drafts”, Paul. You sorta missed the mark this time.

    Also: Black people invented Rock & Roll!!! Full Stop.

    Yes, I heard rumors about that during my years as a rock critic.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about today’s post, Jay. Take care.

    On what basis? They’re in the HoF, they’re every bit as culturally relevant as the other groups represented on that uniform, perhaps even moreso to the NBA desired demo (which isn’t necessarily black, but is most certainly 18-35).

    I’m not following your logic here, Paul. As another reader said, this might be one of those those times when your bias (not the be confused with racism, because as a black reader, I don’t get that sense about you at all) is tainting your commentary.

    When you have a bunch of White acts represented and one Black act, that seems like the dictionary definition of tokenism, doesn’t it?

    Not a dig at NWA; a dig at the design conception.

    I would argue that the only “tokenization” here is people pointing out that the sole black representation is “token” as if that sole black representation isn’t equally deserving of its place. Would two black letters still be a token gesture? 3? What’s the threshold?

    I’m the sole black manager in my organization. Does that make me to token, or just the sole black manager in my org?

    I gotta say, this is an odd hill to die on, Paul.

    Actually, there is no “hill” and I am not “dying.”

    I never said NWA is not “equally deserving of its place.” Please stop mischaracterizing my position.

    You appear to have a very different definition of “tokenism” than the generally accepted one. If you feel that hip-hop is well-represented in the Rock Hall in general and on the Cavs’ new jersey in particular, that’s a perfectly fine position to hold (but, one might say, an odd hill to die on). We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point.

    It’s hard to have a good-faith discussion on something when we define that something so differently. So let’s please move on. Thanks.

    I concur. The Hall isn’t as White Boomer-centric as it’s made out to be in this writeup, and embraces so much of “Rock Radio” (hence the reason it’s in Cleveland!) culture that expands beyond the specific genre. NWA’s logo is referenced in the Cleveland logo, if I remember correctly.

    NWA’s logo is referenced in the Cleveland logo, if I remember correctly.

    Tokenism. Look at the other artists referenced in the logo.

    That’s one way of looking at it. Pretty bold, especially since neither the Hall, nor the Cavs came out and explicitly showed which wordmarks were referenced, a fan figured it out. Tokenism generally relies on performative gestures, yes? Another view might be that there’s only so many rap outfits in the RRHOF with an identifiable wordmark… Run DMC, PE, Wu-Tang, and NWA are the only that come to mind, but I’m admittedly old. Given that they already had a block E for Metallica, this one made more sense.

    Something that hasn’t been mentioned:

    How many bands mentioned are actually synonymous with Cleveland? 0.

    Why would they celebrate bands not from Cleveland on a City Edition jersey. What Cleveland fan is going to want to represent bands from England, Seattle, and Compton California?

    If they were going to go music inspired, why not just spotlight a famous Cleveland act like:

    Nine Inch Nails (RnR)
    Levert (R&B)
    Bone Thugs n Harmony (Old School Rap)
    Machine Gun Kelly (New Rap)

    At least then you can tell a story that resonates with fans. There was just a glaring lack of creativity.

    when I think of Cleveland bands my mind goes immediately to the Raspberries, who some believe invented power pop. When I was younger, every kid I met from Cleveland was a big fan of the Michael Stanley Band.

    I saw the Michael Stanley Band on a triple bill with AC/DC and the Dictators In 1977, all for the princely sum of $3.50. It was AC/DC’s first time in NYC and they were the opening act followed by MSB. Needless to say, that was a tough act to follow.

    I could definitely see a Bone Thugs uniform in the Cavs future. I’m not sure I’d actually WANT to see it, but I could see Nike pulling such a stunt.

    Nobody is more synonymous with Cleveland music than Ian Hunter. Which makes no sense at all if you think about it.

    “The Rock and Roll HOF includes plenty of black artists and hip hop icons that still resonate with NBA crowd.”

    How relevant is NWA to today’s youth and street cultures, really? I mean, I get that they’re a foundational act in the history of hip hop (gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop in particular), but do younger music fans still listen to them? I admit I’m skeptical, but I’m willing to be educated on the point if there’s evidence that they still occupy a noticeable place in current popular and musical culture.

    No, younger black kids don’t listen to NWA or Biggie for that matter. As someone raising young black kids and with black Gen-Z nephews, those artists are simply folks who were in biopics or who sell headphones and bad family comedies.

    Lil Uzi Vert, Future, A Boogie With Da Hoodie & Lil Baby are a LOT more relevant to younger fans.

    (I have no idea what exactly “black street culture” is, BTW)

    It’s an incredibly tone-deaf piece.

    Who are you to tell anyone that rock and roll isn’t relevant to black youth? As much as I appreciate another white male offering his opinion on what is appropriate for us, please remember that your years of research and attending rock concerts doesn’t make you an expert on what is appropriate for black youth.

    It’s a piece on how it’s an odd choice, sure. But it’s odd to you. And as you pointed out, you are neither the target nor a fan of the league, and have no legs to stand on.

    Today would have been a great chance to look at all the jerseys, or rank your favorites.

    Instead you wrote a harmful piece with no remorse.

    Who are you to tell anyone that rock and roll isn’t relevant to black youth?

    Actually, I said rock and roll isn’t culturally relevant, period. That is a self-evident truth, as anyone can see simply by looking at the past decade’s worth of Billboard chart listings.

    I fail to see what is “harmful” about pointing that out. It’s simply a fact. It’s not a fact I’m particularly happy about, incidentally, but reality is reality.

    This is true. Hip-Hop is the most popular (and disposable) musical genre now, largely because of streaming. As a fan of both 80’s soft rock and hip-hop, I’m still not sure how I feel about this.

    Normally I appreciate your perspective on the cultural relevance of the topics on this site, but I think you’re really off base here and that’s likely what’s driving so much questioning or argumentation on behalf of readers.

    Rock is culturally relevant today across disciplines, including in hip-hop and with black audiences. From a fashion standpoint, rock tees from the 70’s-90’s have been one of the most consistent trends for the last 5 years, across demos. From experience, I’ve seen Led Zeppelin and AC/DC tees fly off the shelves to a diverse crowd of teens/20s customers. Just look at the tee assortment at Urban Outfitters. Recently, we’ve had a controversy with the Kardashians’ wearing Slayer tees (which drove resale to astronomical levels), Justin Bieber making Marilyn Manson trend, and Slipknot’s jacket first made famous in The Sopranos coming back as a cult item (GQ article within the last month).

    Musically, those “rock” bands you listed are still serving as sample fodder for some of the biggest names in rap, and hip-hop fans learn samples. Just look at Complex, there are a dozen articles about hip-hop songs and the rock songs they leverage. In the past few years we’ve seen hit songs sample everything from Marilyn Manson (Kanye) to Sting (JuiceWRLD, and that might be one of the most resonant songs to define the Gen Z teen era). If you listen to interviews with rappers, they constantly reference rock music influences, and that doesn’t even get into production. From Rick Rubin originally blurring the lines to the fact that modern rock acts (what I would define as rock, I’m not sure what you’d call them) are doubling as massive producers for rap – Jamie XX, James Blake, etc. Rappers like Kid Cudi and Schoolboy Q are known for how often and creatively they rework alt rock songs (LCD Soundsystem, Chromatics, the gamut). Hell Elton John gave Young Thug his blessing to do a crazy remix/cover of Rocket Man. With streaming, this generation has more visibility and exploration power than ever in music, and you see it manifest everywhere. Kenny f’ing G is one of the biggest features in Hip Hop right now, and has been in videos and live performances for The Weeknd and Kanye.

    And then segues to film, where one of if not the biggest recent trend in blockbusters seems to be rock biopics. And you don’t get those box office numbers only selling tickets to old white people.

    I just don’t see your argument, and it treads dangerously close to some OK, Boomer territory as much as that’s become a meaningless meme. Honestly, the fair take IMO (which reflects apparently the Hall’s shifting view) is that, in the words of Kanye, “We culture. Rap is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll.” And I think that really means that the barriers between the genres continue to break down (just like Rap-Rock was doing in early aughts, while also topping the charts), the distinction you’re trying to make on cultural relevance isn’t reflective of the actual culture.

    Forgot a few more references, for brevity’s sake:

    1. Grateful Dead also being one of the biggest trends of the past 5 years in fashion. Not only licensing, but the entire revival of lot style through brands like Online Ceramics.

    2. Arguably the two faces of Cleveland’s current music scene are both Rap-Rock hybrids stylistically and in their samples, in Cudi and MGK. Both have released songs/albums specifically recorded as rock as well.

    3. Festival culture is at its all time peak (2020 aside obviously), and I’ll let you know that those lineups – geared for 18 year olds – are very rock driven. Metallica and RATM have been major headliners, while you still get huge, diverse, and young crowds for modern rock acts like Tame Impala (coincidentally, has a cosign from Travis Scott, along with John Mayer).


    One more time: Have you looked at the Billboard charts lately?

    Rock used to be the dominant form of youth-cultural expression. But it’s not that anymore — it’s a niche category. Does it have an audience? Sure. Is it culturally relevant to today’s youth? No.

    Is that a commentary on rock’s artistic merit? No. It’s simply an observation of what is and isn’t popular in today’s cultural zeitgeist.

    Here’s a simple thought experiment: You are given a sizable amount of money, with the proviso that you must invest it in either a young rock band or a young hip-hop act. Which one do you choose?

    The end.

    So you’re just not going to engage with any of the evidence I outlined that rock is hyper relevant today? I guess the billboard chart is somehow a better measure of cultural relevance than fashion, film, and the actual dynamism of the industry and interplay between genres.

    I’m sorry, but the fact you’re referencing Billboard charts shows that you don’t have the pulse of what’s relevant for younger demographics. People don’t care about what’s charting and Billboard has still not been able to truly reflect the paradigm shift in music listening – we don’t all listen to homogenous radio play any more.

    Now let’s say you’re right (I will actually engage in your argument even if you can’t refute any of mine) – have you actually been looking at the charts? Take a gander at the 2010s top songs of the decade and it’s littered with rock acts. Maybe you’re splitting hairs and you want to call bands like Maroon 5 “pop” – but that’s your issue with trying to draw a distinction between (presumably) something like “classic rock” and what’s relevant today, whether that veers alternative or to a more poppy sound than you prefer. But if we use the bands in the hall as a guide, a ton of the current popular acts are rock.

    Maroon 5, Gotye, fun, imagine dragons, train, hozier, 21 Pilots, and The Lumineers all have one or more songs on Billboard’s Top 100 of the decade. You then have the rap/rock artists like I referenced – MGK, Post Malone, etc. And then you have the songs that sample rock heavily, like that Juice WRLD cut.

    So yes. Rock in general is still relevant. And the old rock bands are still hyper relevant (again – not sure how you can ignore that rock has been a predominant source of fashion trends for the past 5 years with rappers dressing in rock gear, or not see the connections throughout all of pop culture – it’s not just about the charts).

    Hell. The biggest meme and tiktok trend of 2020 is soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac.

    I’ve been reading this site for 15 years, which is impressive considering I’m only 28. I feel like over and over you and the other writers have joked about your lack of connection to “today’s youth” and that’s becoming more apparent through these comments. I don’t know how one day the message is “oh I don’t understand these kids” and the next it’s “I am an expert on youth culture to be able to declare rock is irrelevant.”

    On the last paragraph, that’s a different argument. I never claimed rock is more relevant than rap today, of course that would be asinine. You claimed rock is irrelevant to today’s youth – that is what the bevy of examples I provided is meant to address. However you slice it – charts, musical influences, festivals, fashion, film – rock is still incredibly relevant to culture today.

    Here’s the issue with the Rock and Roll HOF. Take a look and see who they inducted this year: Depeche Mode, Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G and T-Rex.(T-Rex?) Who among those inductees would you consider rock and roll? Why not just call it the popular music HOF? And the jersey will still sell because people like paying $$$ for something that will be replaced next year

    Hi Paul,

    I enjoyed your analysis today about the Cavs/Cleveland’s association with the Rock Hall (I am a Northeast Ohio native).
    Note that the Cavaliers/NBA also used a Rock Hall reference in the 1997 NBA All-Star weekend logos/designs as well. To me, these are old, unimaginative designs by the NBA and MLB. Northeast Ohio has much more to offer than the Rock Hall!

    That was going to be my comment as well… The Rock Hall is okay, but there is more to Northeast Ohio than one museum. I’ve been a big fan of the “Forest City” moniker that no one seems to use anymore.

    Hey, Chance. It doesn’t have a reply next to your previous comments, but I can see the argument that the N isn’t from NWA but the second E absolutely looks like it is from the Metallica logo.

    It’s funny how these things come up. I didn’t know that “Forest City” was a Cleveland moniker, but I read last week about how the Ratner business started as a Cleveland lumber retailer. For a sports connection, I found this when looking into the background of Brookfield, which bought out Forest City Ratner a few years ago, Brookfield being Rogers Communications’ partner in the Blue Jays’ possible new stadium and associated development.

    What is a easily identifiable, iconic National “thing” in Cleveland though? I love the Forest City nickname but nobody outside of Cleveland knows that. Cheesy or overused or whatever, the Rock Hall is one thing exclusive to Cleveland that people know throughout the country that is CLEVELAND.


    Make this happen. Won’t even need Ian to sign off.

    The BB lightning bolt would look good on a uni.

    Creating a museum about Rock and Roll strikes me as the least Rock and Roll thing anyone could do, and the inclusion of hip hop icons strikes me as more of a desperate reach for relevance than an honest acknowledgment of the artform.

    I think I truly believe this, but I am also a native Pittsburgher quick to subjectively dismiss as stupid anything associated with Cleveland, Ohio.

    It’s not just you. “Rock n Roll” and “museum” are mutually exclusive concepts. Like “classy” and “Cleveland”.

    There was also a short-lived WNBA team called the Cleveland Rockers. I don’t think they died because their name turned off black fans.


    I think the topic shouldn’t be what is “culturally relevant”, it should be why we don’t mind NBA teams having 40 different uniforms. I think it is appalling. I also find it amusing there is an issue with rock music being culturally relevant, but the fact that the New York Knickerbockers have a name that references 18th century trousers is perfectly fine.

    I believe the Knick’s use of Knickerbocker refers to the descendants of 17th century Dutch who settled in New York, not the 18th century trouser.

    I agree with the crux of your observation that a rock ‘n roll themed jersey doesn’t fit in with the larger NBA cross-promotional program. It’s riding the wave of the current cultural zeitgeist, which is dominated by the items of black youth culture (which, coming to think of it—when hasn’t that been the case in America?). Rock and Roll is certainly not an item of current black youth culture.

    However, I disagree with your statement that rock “has zero current cultural relevance except as a relic of suburban White Boomer nostalgia.” Paul, I know you live in Brooklyn. Do you ever venture into the gentrifying, millennial (i.e. twenty and thirty-something) inhabited areas in North Brooklyn? There are a ton of rock clubs where both popular and underground rock (and rock-adjacent) acts play. There are also dozens of rock and punk themed bars. A lot of it is cashing in on some type of cultural nostalgia for New York’s downtown punk era, but at some nostalgia becomes so pervasive that it segues back into being a part of the “current culture.” Also, I’d argue that the line between “mainstream” and “underground” cultures has blurred beyond proper distinction in the internet era.

    I see rock bands play, often at the very clubs you’re referring to, all the time (or I did, until the pandemic) — like I said, it’s my favorite art form. But when was the last time rock and roll artists had a presence on the Billboard charts? When was the last time young rock and roll artists had a presence on the Billboard charts? When was the last time music played by white guys with guitars in general (aside from country) had a presence on the Billboard charts?

    That’s what I mean by cultural relevance. Rock is just a niche category now. That’s not a knock — jazz has no cultural relevance either, and it’s a wonderful art form with lots of live venues for its niche audience. Just isn’t popular. Neither is rock, at least with today’s youth.

    Best solution: Cavs wear their home and road uniforms associated with “Cavaliers” and their wine and gold colors. I know, novel concept!

    I don’t know if Billboard charts are a perfect measure of cultural relevance but FWIW, white guys with guitars with Billboard #1 albums 2018-2020:
    Fallout Boy
    Bon Jovi
    Jack White
    Dave Mathews Band
    Panic at the Disco
    Paul McCartney
    Vampire Weekend
    The Raconteurs

    So in a 152-week period, you came up with 11 artists, with an average age of Very Fucking Old.

    You have made my point far better than I could have. Thank you.

    You said they had no presence and now that I showed they did you are moving the goalposts. And what does their age have to do with it? Youth culture is not the only relevant culture unless you work in advertising.

    Youth culture is not the only relevant culture unless you work in advertising.

    Or marketing. Or branding. Which is EXACTLY what we’re talking about here.

    what does their age have to do with it?

    When I refer to something as a “totem of White Boomer nostalgia,” *that’s* what age has to do with it.

    If you look at another comment thread, you’ll find that I said rock has no chart presence except for oldies acts and hangers-on. Like, um, the ones you cited.

    Here’s a simple thought experiment: You are given a sizable amount of money, with the proviso that you must invest it in either a young rock band or a young hip-hop act. Which one do you choose?

    The end.

    Love that the captcha test on toque buying site includes a photo of what appears to be a stadium! link
    Trying to work out if they’ll deliver a toque to Canada…

    I brought this up on the twitter machine yesterday, but I wonder if the creators of the “iconic typefaces” the Cavs used for the wordmark are being recognized and/ or paid.

    Cleveland sports teams’ obsession with rock and roll goes back to the mid to late 90s when the rock hall was built in Cleveland.

    As a native NEOhioan and Cleveland sports fan, I’m sick to death over the obsession. It seems we can’t have a logo without trying to shoehorn it into a guitar shape.

    I also don’t believe that on a national level Cleveland is synonymous with rock and roll. If you asked where the birthplace of rock was, I have to believe a vast majority would say something other than Cleveland.

    Paul, I think your assessment is spot on. I wish they would move on from tired old “classic rock”. As a construction worker it’s not a matter of what songs I’m going to hear on a jobsite from the local radio, it’s just what order they’re going to be played in on any given day. It’s maddening.


    I think I’ve discovered another area that Uni Watchers might find interesting: Airline liveries. The unique and sometimes meaningful designs that airlines use to decorate their planes.

    My son has recently gotten deeply into planespotting, and just from my perspective, it seems to scratch the exact same itch that uni details and minutiae tend to scratch.

    Logos, colors, special designs for different states, municipalites, organizations, etc. Some are cool, some are dull, some are stright-up ugly, much like sports uniforms.

    For a starter point: JetBlue has a great page that details their many liveries and what they mean…


    I rarely disagree with your posts Paul, but I definitely do today. I may be unintentionally overgeneralizing what you are saying but my take away from your article was that the team shouldn’t create a uniform representing likely the most notable and unique aspect of their city because 15 of the 20 players on the roster are African American and MIGHT not directly relate to rock and roll (especially to bands with all white members) – which is a large assumption in and of itself, one that is frankly rooted in racial stereotypes. I’ve played in at least 10 rock bands over my life (that certainly drew inspiration from Zeppelin and Pink Floyd) and over half of them had African American members, many of them multiple. I live in Austin and some of my favorite local rock bands are either entirely African American or have multiple African American members (all in their early 20’s to mid 30’s). One of the best drummers I’ve ever played with was African American and his favorite musician of all time was John Bonham. I also know many famous African American rappers who cite Eminem as their favorite of all time. Music doesn’t belong to a race despite who started a genre, and I think an argument like you are making just furthers stereotypes.

    I think going as far as to say the team is tone deaf for not using fonts from all African-American fronted bands is a giant leap, not just a stretch. It seems like you’re making a mountain out of a mole hill and basing many of your arguments on overgeneralized stereotypes.

    Actually, I never said they “should” or “shouldn’t” do anything, nor did I accuse them of being tone-deaf. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    What I said — and I’ll say it again — is that it’s an odd and seemingly incongruous fit based on how the NBA has been marketing itself in recent years. That’s all.

    If they had been marketing themselves all along by referencing classic rock and other staples of Boomer culture (instead of Black street culture), then this uniform would seem like a natural, congruous fit. But they haven’t. So it doesn’t.

    In short, I’m saying that this design approach is surprising. Not saying it’s good, bad, advisable, inadvisable — just surprising. That’s not a value judgment; it’s an observation.

    Sorry about that, definitely didn’t intend to put words in your mouth, that was more of my (perhaps incorrect) takeaway.

    Totally agree about the odd approach from an NBA perspective. I still think there are a significant number of African Americans who love rock and roll who would relate to this uniform, albeit I have no idea how many of them are Cavs/NBA fans.

    I always appreciate your articles and your willingness to engage your readers, even when we misconstrue your words!

    Yes, unfortunately I agree as well.

    As a reader from the site’s inception, and a person of color, I’ve always sensed an inherent bias to Paul’s takes on the NBA. It’s not offensive, nor intentional, but Paul tends to be more critical and dismissive of the NBA as compared to the MLB (predominantly white), with the NHL (predominantly white) getting the next favorable coverage, followed by the NFL.

    Paul will disagree, and will claim to be objective, but this isn’t something he may be aware of. I do not know Paul personally, nor do I know his level of exposure to people of color in his daily life, but the fact remains that there have been multiple occasions where Paul “puts his foot in his mouth” with regards to black culture and black athletes.

    I never spoke up before because I choose to come to the this site. I choose to read Paul’s coverage, and Paul is entitled to his opinion. This year, we have all gone through hours and hours of diversity training in workspaces; I’ve seen my white co-workers have moments of reflection or realization and hope Paul can challenge himself.

    As objective as Paul may feel he is being, he has on more than one occasion offended a very small subset of his readers.

    Actually, I have challenged myself on this issue:

    There’s no question that my tastes and opinions — not to mention the influences that helped shape those tastes and opinions — have all been shaped by being a White guy, of a certain generation, who grew up in the suburbs. That doesn’t mean my tastes and opinions are automatically wrong (or automatically right, for that matter), but it does mean that I came from a certain mental/emotional place, a place that no doubt has lots of implicit bias and presuppositions. No question about any of that, and I would never claim or suggest otherwise.

    That said, while it’s true that I tend to be more dismissive of NBA uniforms, that’s because (a) there are so many of them — the league has chosen to emphasize quantity over quality; (b) so many of the designs are clearly meant to be of-the-moment and then become disposable, which runs counter to my idea of how uni design should work; and (c) they’ve sold out to uni advertisers, which I think is bad for the uni-verse and bad for our society in general.

    Perhaps those preferences (quality instead of quantity, durability instead of disposability, no ads instead of ads) are themselves products of implicit bias. But I don’t think so — I think they’re legitimate standards and parameters for critiquing design. And you don’t have to be White, Black, or any other race to see that.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with those preferences of mine, of course. I’m just saying that I don’t think there’s anything race-based about any of them.

    I agree with what you’re saying regarding rock music and its tiny-to-nonexistent resonance with today’s youth culture, Paul. I’d like however to put forward a slightly different view which is that while the music is clearly not relevant, the concept of rock & roll culture and aesthetics still seem present to an extent within the worlds of youth culture and Black culture. Young Thug wears punk-style moto leather jackets all the time, Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott are obsessed with Marilyn Manson, hell even arguably the biggest hip hop song of this year, by DaBaby, is literally titled “Rockstar.” With all that in mind I wonder if the basic idea of “rock” as a design inspiration in an NBA jersey is really completely tone-deaf.

    That being said, that’s to say nothing of the actual design, which I think is hideous.


    I think I’ve discovered another area that Uni Watchers might find interesting: Airline liveries. The unique and sometimes meaningful designs that airlines use to decorate their planes.

    My son has recently gotten deeply into planespotting, and just from my perspective, it seems to scratch the exact same itch that uni details and minutiae tend to scratch.

    Logos, colors, special designs for different states, municipalites, organizations, etc. Some are cool, some are dull, some are stright-up ugly, much like sports uniforms.

    For a starter point: JetBlue has a great page that details their many liveries and what they mean…


    I appreciate the deeper dive into the Cavs city edition unis and how it’s centered around Rock N Roll which isn’t really a cultural touchstone to younger African American players…but in that same way how is Boathouse Row for the players on the Sixers relevant? Or the Rivers in Milwaukee relevant to the players? Or the Mint in Charlotte to the players?

    Isn’t this supposed to be more about the relevance to the city these players represent? That’s how I take it. So Rock Hall references is relevant to Cleveland in the same way the Mint is relevant in Charlotte, and the mountains in Denver, or the Valley in PHX.

    how is Boathouse Row for the players on the Sixers relevant? Or the Rivers in Milwaukee relevant to the players? Or the Mint in Charlotte to the players?

    Right, but those aren’t pop-cultural — they’re not *trying* to have contemporary relevance. What I’m saying is that this league has leaned in very heavily on a certain kind of pop culture, but this uniform is about a very different kind of now-largely-obsolete pop culture, so it seems like a more incongruous pairing. That’s all.

    I was just wondering if UCLA would be better off not covering up the Under Armour logo on their uniforms. The reason being is it would show that the Bruins are compliant with the in-dispute contract while UA isn’t. Just wondering. Any thoughts anybody?

    Good question! And I think there’s merit to your suggestion. My guess as to why the Bruins have taken the approach they have is two-fold:

    1) Why wear a manufacturer’s logo when they’re no longer paying you to do it?

    2) There’s not much question that the old deal is dead, it’s just a matter of who’s going to pay whom what at this point. So UCLA may see no point in honoring an agreement they know is no longer valid.

    That said, it might provide UCLA a higher measure of damages if they kept wearing the logos, much like you suggest. I’m curious what kind of legal advice they’ve gotten on this issue so far.

    I am a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer, I’m nobody’s lawyer here, and I’m certainly nobody’s lawyer between UCLA and Under Armour. So I’m totally armchair quarterbacking here.

    Generally, if something goes wrong in a contract, the non-breaching party is supposed to mitigate their damages. If they you successfully mitigate your damages, then (your good conduct) + (the judge grants a verdict in your favor) = (you’re “back to zero” which is better than being harmed). Let’s say I have a standing order whereby if Buyer wants a banana from anywhere in the universe, he actually has to buy from me. That’s a requirements contract. Which I think is the best analogy here. Under Armour desired logo exposure on people’s shoes and jerseys, and they ultimately agreed to buy branding from UCLA.

    Now after the pandemic, Under Armour wants to convince a judge that it actually doesn’t want and can’t have exposure on shoes or jerseys anymore. UCLA is mitigating its damages by letting Nike/Adidas/everybody buy their own exposures, and maybe UCLA will make a new deal so they’re not losing as much money in chasing after Under Armour. The flipside is, UCLA could arguably be throwing away money by chasing Under Armour for their business. You’re trying to court Nike/Adidas/somebody else…the vision of “Imagine your logo here” is clouded by that pesky Under Armour logo that’s in the way!

    Back to the bananas analogy: If my standing buyer suddenly refuses to buy bananas from me, my bananas are going bad, so I have to sell my bananas to somebody else on the cheap and then claim the difference as my damages because Original Buyer flaked on the contract. Ergo, UCLA gets rid of the Under Armour logos until the matter gets resolved. Whether it’s a judge’s verdict or a settlement, they’ll have one last transfer of money and then the contract will end. But in the meantime, no more Mr. Nice Guy on either end.

    That answer your question?

    Happy birthday, Anthony! Thanks for all your contributions to Uni Watch! The uni-verse is a better place because of what you add to it!

    It can’t just be me but it is kind of a shame that we find out about the whole Reverse Retro as a result of a video game.

    “Rock and roll, meanwhile, has zero current cultural relevance except as a relic of suburban White Boomer nostalgia”

    Paul – you are wrong here. Black artists have made a substantial impact on rock and roll music and their contribution is considered foundational to the genre.

    The inaugural class included Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, James Brown, Little Richard, Ray Charles, and Sam Cooke.

    As far as “modern cultural relevance” – You’re entire orientation is towards traditional jerseys, you’ve lambasted hip-hop culture in jerseys as dozens and dozens of occasions. Of course, what relevance does Grand Theft Auto, or fuck it, even MLK (whose attitude is now considered Anti-black by many modern activists who disavow the “I Have A Dream” ethos). Additionally, it’s only your sub-niche of boomer rock that’s lost relevance; no one gives a fuck about the Kinks anymore but Denzel Curry still gets spins.

    Lastly, there’s no reason the NBA has to restrict itself to explicitly black cultural trends; Rock & Roll is enjoyed the world over by people of all races, and it’s basically neo-segregation to claim that black players simply *cannot* be exposed to a pro-rock message. You sound like the people in the 80s that complained the NBA was “too black” or the folks that just couldn’t watch bubble-ball because of the BLM and other associated messaging. Open your mind a little bit – and allow other people to have an open mind too.

    Black artists have made a substantial impact on rock and roll music and their contribution is considered foundational to the genre.

    Yes, I know (as is very evident from my record collection, which includes many records from all of the 1950s and ’60s artists you cited, and many more who you didn’t mention). And I never claimed otherwise.

    But rock has no CURRENT cultural relevance except as White Boomer nostalgia. That is self-evident simply by looking at the Billboard charts, where rock is virtually non-existent except for oldies acts (hey, they remastered a collection of Beatles tracks!) and hangers-on (hey, there’s a new Springsteen album!). It’s not a debatable point — it’s just the reality of the current cultural zeitgeist.

    I would take issue with saying rock’s only relevance is “White Boomer nostalgia”

    Boomers are a certain generation… rock’s relevance is certainly only nostalgia at this point, but for people through those who were teenagers in the 1990’s at least. Those aren’t Boomers. But otherwise, yes, rock is not culturally popular right now.

    Am I the only one who actually likes the Cavs’ rock & roll jersey? Forget about what it represents. Just render it in burgundy and gold and that’s your look going forward.

    Yuck. I hate it. And I did not know what it represented until yesterday but I saw it when it was first leaked. It looked so childish and unprofessional.

    Watching the American Music Awards this year (and over the last few years) made it painfully obvious that rock is dead. Modern music is just performers now, no bands at all. If you needed anymore proof that rock is dead, the AMAs didn’t even have a tribute to Eddie Van Halen…not even a mention.

    Cleveland team president Chris Antonetti, speaking with reporters during a Zoom call yesterday, said the team is “continu[ing] to work through” the process of evaluating the team’s name (from @spiders_six)

    1. Cleveland Centurions.
    2. Cleveland Skylarks.
    3. Cleveland Imperials.

    These are your choices. Yes, I know they’re all old cars. I also know the name they ultimately pick won’t be as good as any of these.

    Actually, nobody here has dismissed that value. (On the contrary, I have reaffirmed that it is my favorite art form.)

    Please avoid straw-man posts. Thanks.

    Here’s another cultural dinosaur: Teams with an unchanging uniform from year to year. What a mess these tawdry cash grabs have made of good branding.

    Typing “the end” at the end of a comment does not end the discussion (or prove you are right).

    Love this website but… do better.

Comments are closed.