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More Info on the Browns’ Possible Facemask Color Change

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Yesterday I wrote about how Browns executive JW Johnson had suggested on Twitter last Friday that the team might be in the process of permanently changing its brown facemask to white. As I explained in that piece, the Browns are in a unique position because their primary logo is just the helmet itself, so changing the mask would also necessitate changing the logo, which is a more involved process.

I sent a note yesterday to Johnson, asking if we could discuss all of this in more detail. He said we could talk sometime in the new year, which I’m sure will be very illuminating.

Meanwhile, I also sent a few questions to Jonathan Wright, the NFL’s Senior Director for Uniforms and On-Field Products, who oversees any changes to a team’s visual program. (As you may recall, I published a lengthy interview with him back in August.) Here are the questions I emailed to him yesterday, along with his written responses:

Uni Watch: If any other team — not the Browns — wanted to permanently change their mask color, could they just do that on the fly simply by telling the league and moving ahead with it, or would that require a lengthier approval process? (I’m thinking about how the Bills recently changed their masks from grey to white. But they made that change at the start of a season, not in the middle of the season. Would changing on the fly in the middle of a season be permitted?)

Jonathan Wright: The helmet is part of the overall uniform design. A change to the helmet would be considered a uniform change. A full-time change in the middle of the season would not be allowed, barring some sort of extenuating circumstance that would make this change necessary.

UW: For the Browns, since changing the mask color would necessitate changing the primary logo as well, what sort of timetable are we looking at if they decide to go ahead with that?

Wright: This would have to be explored, but my guess is that it would be a two-year process, as it would be with any primary logo change.

UW: If the Browns wanted to keep wearing the white masks even before the primary logo had been officially changed, would that be permitted?

Wright: This too would have to be explored, as the Browns and their logo are a unique situation within the league. I can tell you we would look at all possible scenarios to make sure we’re addressing the Club ask, while balancing the possible discrepancies in the marketplace and how long that would take to rectify itself, if that makes sense.

The above scenario is definitely an interesting one that really needs to be discussed as its own case study and would challenge us to find the right course of action.

Faaaascinating. I should point out here that when I interviewed Wright back in the summer, he said the league took a less stringent approach to the Bills’ mask color change. Here’s the relevant passage from that interview:

Uni Watch: What about something that’s basically at the equipment level, like the Bills changing from grey facemasks to white last season? Obviously, that doesn’t have the same retail implications [as a jersey change], because you don’t sell helmets the same way you sell jerseys. Are you involved in that, and does that have to be in the pipeline just as long?

Wright: In theory, something like that has to be in the pipeline just as long. But there are certain cases — like, for that one, we didn’t constitute that as a uniform change.

UW: Oh, so that doesn’t reset their five-year clock for uniform changes?

Wright: Right.

I think the takeaway here is threefold: First, the NFL’s rules are at least somewhat flexible depending on the case-by-case situation. Second, the Browns present a particularly complicated set of circumstances because of their helmet doubling as their primary logo. And finally, judging by Wright’s responses, it sounds like any potential mask and/or logo changes for the Browns are still in the embryonic stages.

We’ll likely learn more when I talk with JW Johnson next month. I for one am looking forward to that!


’Tis the Season

Yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah, so I broke out my Lakers/Latkes T-shirt. I’ll also wear it later this week, when I attend one of Yo La Tengo’s annual Hanukkah shows at the Bowery Ballroom. (Note that this means I will have worn purple twice in one week. It’s a Hanukkah miracle!)

In addition, yesterday’s mail included a holiday card from longtime reader/pal Marty Hick, who addressed the envelope with some nice uni-style lettering:

Thanks, Marty — all best to you, Holly, and Clara Jane, and my thanks, as always, for the important work you do as a teacher!


And Speaking of Holiday Rituals...

Don’t forget that the annual Uni Watch year-end raffle is currently underway, with dozens of cool items up for grabs. Full details here.

Comments (52)

    I completely forgot the Bills changed facemask colors! I say go ahead and let the Browns switch now as their season is almost over. I would contend they look better in grey facemasks though.

    Absolutely the browns should always wear grey face masks!!!!!!!!!!nothing but that in my humble opinion

    I like the brown facemask better. They are the Browns after all. Other than the stranger jersey numerals, I think the Browns have the strongest uniform set in their history.

    It is very interesting how haphazard the NFL seems to be in enforcing uniform stuff. With changes they seem incredibly strict, to “protect the brand” I am sure (though it also has something to do with merch). But at the same time, it seems fairly clear they don’t really require teams to do any sort of market research before releasing new looks. Be it the Bucs, Browns, Jets, Jags, Rams, Dolphins, Falcons, etc, there have been countless teams who come out with a new look, and the immediate reaction is fans prefer the prior design. If the NFL is going to be so cautious with the logos and uniforms of the teams, why not force them to do better fan surveys before unleashing this dreck on us.
    And then when you get to the on the field stuff, they have rules which aren’t enforced, or only enforced via meaningless fines. When in fact they could simply have a uniform police at each game, and tell the players coming out of the locker room they won’t be permitted to play unless they are dressed properly, or constantly penalize them 15 yards until they get their act together.
    I’ll just go back to my front porch and yell at the kids to get off my lawn now.

    Paul your zip code is hidden but it’s visible on the bottom of the envelope next to the bar code

    For all of the people making the argument that “if the facemask is different on the helmet, then it differs from the logo”, how stringent are we going to be about the design of the actual logo? The helmet looks like a traditional from the 1980s/’90s, and that facemask went with those helmets. If we’re going to get picky about the facemasks not matching, should we also be clamoring for the logo to be a Vicis or a Xenith helmet, or an updated Riddell Speedflex?

    That’s a remarkably relevant point. The logo is outdated relative to what the team is actually wearing on the field — but if you updated it to a newer helmet, I think we’d all be repulsed by the numerous curves, bulges, and deformation panels.

    Doesn’t this just scream out for them to adopt Brownie as the primary logo? Even though he doesn’t appear on the uniform, at least we’d get away from the dissonance the current logo provides.

    Excellent point regarding the design of the helmet. At this point if going with a helmet logo you almost just have to use a sort of throwback to the single or double bar look.
    Also, the slightly askew design of the current Browns logo (as well as other teams when they present their helmet-as-logo) always bothered me. The attempt to show perspective of the helmet despite being flat just didn’t work as well as the full on side profile version of helmet logos.
    All that said, make Brownie the logo, or even that B inside a white oval they have. Both are solid options.

    I would be in favor of the double bar and keep it 100% old school. And I like the smoother curves of the older helmets. All that being said, it does argue for Brownie to be the logo, or the =B=.

    The 2D version they’re using in the endzones would work, too. I think it’s simple enough to be a “generic helmet”

    I’m a Browns fan and I’m constantly surprised how what I think I prefer is not always right. I didn’t like the orange pants of the Kardiac Kids era, but I prefer them today. And I grew up with white facemasks and thought I preferred that until they switched to brown and thought that was better. And now that they’ve gone back to white, I think it looks so much cleaner than the brown so now I’m back to white!

    I miss the days when NFL teams just went to the local sporting goods store for their uniforms, the local newspaper illustrator for their logo, and their local car dealerships for jobs in the offseason – and the league couldn’t have cared less. It was a much more interesting time, visually, graphically, regionally, and on-field motivationally.

    BTW, I vote for white facemasks.

    I don’t have an opinion on brown vs. white facemask for the Browns but I do feel strongly that they should have a primary logo that isn’t just an image of their helmet.

    Has any team had Home and Away Facemasks. I could see them wanting to keep the Brown Facemask with the white and color rush jerseys and have the white facemasks with the traditional Brown uniform.

    Looking at the graphic for the two helmets, is the orange the same on both shells? my eyes deceive me!

    You see right. Here is why: The white face mask helmet is the logo from 1992-2005. The brown face mask helmet is the current logo from 2015-present. The Browns changed their shade of orange in their 2015 rebrand to a more reddish shade. So they are indeed different shades

    The brown face mask helmet comes across redder to my eye but it is probably because there is more brown around it than the white face mask. Like those optical illusions where the balls are all the same color but look different because of the stripes adjacent to them.

    The white face mask helmet is the logo from 1992-2005. The brown face mask helmet is the current logo from 2015-present. The Browns changed their shade of orange in their 2015 rebrand to a more reddish shade. So yes it is indeed more red

    The orange is different. I checked the colors in Paint to be sure it wasn’t an illusion. The helmet on the left is #ED3628 (237-54-40); the one on the right is #EF4E0A (239-78-10).

    Was this deliberate, Paul? Nothing’s been said about the Browns changing their shade of orange, but I don’t really see how that difference in the graphic could happen accidentally. Are you just testing how attuned to detail your readers are?

    Very simple explanation. The white face mask helmet is the logo from 1992-2005. The brown face mask helmet is the current logo from 2015-present. The Browns changed their shade of orange in their 2015 rebrand to a more reddish shade.

    “Nothing’s been said about the Browns changing their shade of orange, but I don’t really see how that difference in the graphic could happen accidentally. Are you just testing how attuned to detail your readers are?”

    We knew about Browns changing the orange back when they Nike-fied in 2015. link

    I’m positive Paul covered it then as well, might have been in an ESPN piece. But the logo with the white mask is from pre-2015, so yes, it would appear different. But it’s nothing new.

    Not it is 2 different shades. The white face mask helmet is the logo from 1992-2005. The brown face mask helmet is the current logo from 2015-present. The Browns changed their shade of orange in their 2015 rebrand to a more reddish shade.

    Why would the Browns want or need to change their facemasks from grey to white? What would such a move accomplish? It seems like the team has learned little to nothing from the debacle of its horrible 2015-2019 uniforms. This isn’t quite as drastic a change as that was but it comes back to the team again wanting a change for the mere sake of it while running from the classic look its fans generally want left alone.

    Actually, when they wore the white masks this past Saturday, fan reaction was very positive (at least on social media, which isn’t a perfect metric but it’s not nothing either). So it’s not “for the mere sake of doing it”; it’s in response to fan sentiment.

    Remember in 2019 when the Chargers changed to yellow facemasks the year before the uniform overhaul?

    I made a mistake by noting the switch as being from grey to white instead of brown to white but the point remains the same. Brown looks better than white anyway in this circumstance.

    Reminds of a few years back when the Colts switched to grey facemasks full timm but had a blue facemask ad their midfield logo for the entire season.
    It always annoyed me in a “uni-watcher” sorta way.


    Yeah, the code won’t create a link (you have the correct URL). But if you click on the middle image here: link

    you’ll get the matchup with gray mask/blue mask field logo

    Have to bring up the Saskatchewan Roughriders again because they had a similar situation. Riders switched from white masks to black masks in 1995. However, their helmet depicted in the end zones in the late 1990s still had the white mask.

    Can see here is this brief video from 1996. Ottawa Rough Riders at Saskatchewan Roughriders.


    Well, it is a relatively calm time in the uniform universe so the color of the facemask of the Browns becomes a hot topic. It is obvious a lot of fans want white facemasks, the merch has to be adapted then and as far as I can read the helmet will remain the primary logo. Should this process of changing the mask on the merch take two years? Will the world be left with mountains of merch with brown facemasks printed on it? The consequences! Here is hoping the new year will first of all bring peace to wartorn parts of the world, health and prosperity to people who deserve both and have neither, a radical new uniform for any team for us to chew on and last of all: white facemasks to the fans of the Browns.

    I still have np preference for brown or white, by the way. But I do hope the helmet without a logo stays the primary logo as it is unique in the NFL. Brownie is cool as a midfield decoration, on a hat or shirt and as the mascot. But leave him off the helmet. Thar double bar B is subpar as a team logo. So you see, I am not immune to the hot topic of the day discussion, but I do hope we will find another subject soon.

    The Browns just need to adopt an honest-to-God actual logo and be done with it. Affix it one side of the helmet, as the Steelers do, and leave the other side blank to honor their “non-logo” history. Do they really want to sell merchandise? Then take a lesson from Portlandia (“put a bird on it”) and put a logo on it.

    Agreed. I really can’t imagine a logo on the helmet for the Browns and that’s a distinctive feature (in the NFL at least). Never change that.

    They do need to settle on a logo though that can be used for graphics and of course merchandise.

    Odd detail on the design of the helmet-as-logo I just picked up on. On the brown facemask version the, for lack of a better word, fasteners are also rendered brown, when in fact they are are white/clear/gray or however you want to describe that color, in real life.
    After a quick search through all the teams helmet logos rendered in the same fashion as the Browns, it seems only the Cardinals and Vikings do not render their fasteners the same color as the facemasks. In both cases those teams render their fasteners the same color as their helmet. Strange.
    It would seem to me they should either be rendered white or gray.

    The league rules are so stringent,but yet they allow sock anarchy. And let’s not forget they allowed the Rams to change to a completely asinine look with the white horns and St. Louis jerseys.

    I think, if a team makes a uniform change and it is so reviled, they should be allowed to go BACK to a classic look,but then they have to keep it for 15 years. As a traditionalist, I’m not opposed to change as long as it works. Detroit is an example. I actually liked the Roy Williams era with the black trim. But they just kept jacking with it until you end up with the arena league look they have now.

    I get that the brown facemask is part of their logo, but is there any team whose logo matters less?

    You’ve got 31 teams whose logo is part of their on-field identity, and one team who has an arbitrary logo that’s used for merch and not on the teams uniform in any way. they’re the only team in this situation.



    How are these two different?

    Why does it even matter what the Browns logo is when its not on their uniforms? Is this because of fan merch, because fan merch has a million different logos and none of them are “official” team logos and none of it matters. Pick anything as the official logo and it doesn’t matter.

    A team has permanently changed a regular helmet mask colour during a season…in the CFL!

    Back before CFL was one shell (CFL still is one shell right now), the Saskatchewan Roughriders wore a white road helmet for almost all road games from 2012-2015. In late regular season 2013, the Riders made a switch from green masks to white masks on the white helmet. Of note, they wore white masks on green helmets at home.



    Stayed with white masks on white helmets until it was discontinued and they went back to wearing green helmets all the time in 2016.

    CFL isn’t big merch money like NFL but they still sell mini-helmets.

    Yup, the CFL switched in the 2019 season to one shell. Before that, the 2010’s there were definitely multiple teams with 2 shells.

    The Rams come to mind with regards to facemask changes without being part of a 5 year wait to make uniform changes. When moving to LA they wanted to wait until the new stadium to overhaul the uniforms. So to downplay the gold, they switched the horns to white and added a white mask in 2016. For the 2020 season they debuted their new and current uniforms. So going on that, it would suggest they could, at least to start next season

    I’ve never noticed face mask color before but different styles of face masks I sorta have.
    In other words, face masks to me are not part of the uniform they’re the protection part.
    Do we care what color of jock strap is being used?
    I don’t.

    Regarding Yo La Tengo: I had a chance to see them live this year when they played with Death Cab for Cutie. They’re a band I’ve always known about but never took a serious listen to until recently. And wow, did I not know what I was missing.

    Two favorite moments: Ira spoke about being a Mets fan (sports!) and sat for a drink in the middle of “Pass the Hatchet…” (an outstanding song) just before changing guitars. Enjoy the show, Paul.

    Nice optical illusion on the two Browns helmets. The one on the left is squarely in red territory at e73527, but apparently with the more orange one on the right it’s much harder to tell…

    Unless a team has a white helmet, which the Browns originally had, I view white facemasks a distraction and unnecessary contrast over colored helmets. I had read once years ago Art Modell went along with the change after a designer told him the white masks were a nod to the original white lids. Helmet bars, visors, and any strapping devices (Rydell, above, mentioned ‘protection parts’) are an accessory that shouldn’t be embellished in anyway. Unless on a white casque, they should take on the darkest color in the scheme or left factory gray. The ’70’s presented some of the most garish fashion trends in history and some NFL teams followed suit: Brown, Chargers, Rams, Both NY, etc. I think the Chiefs were the first with white painted masks, but I never cared for it, then the Browns did it in ’75 – never liked it. I was disappointed that it carried over to a one-off change in ’84 and then into the return to the “Classics” (not so classic-should have been back to grey)/Kosar eras unis. CLE finally got it right in ’07 (60th anniv.) returning to true classic grey. The current brown coloration makes them nearly invisible and in my estimation the most appropriate. Hope the change to white is just talk (clickbait) for us uni-weirdos.

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