The Washington Redskins will introduce a new retro-style uniform at a news conference tonight, their first substantial uniform change since 1979.
The new helmet, according to team sources familiar with it, is burgundy with a spear on each side, similar to what the Redskins used from 1965 to 1969. There apparently is no stripe on top of the helmet, and it bears a grey facemask.
The new jersey will be burgundy. The Redskins used burgundy jerseys at home last season after having worn white jerseys at home from 1981 to 2000. Jersey prototypes include a No. 28 patch on the shoulder to honor cornerback Darrell Green, who called off his retirement in the fall to play one more season.
Pants will be gold, as they were before 1979, when general manager Bobby Beathard arranged the last major change to the uniform. White pants were worn with the burgundy jerseys and burgundy pants with the white jerseys, among other alterations. The uniform then remained basically intact until now.
The changes will be announced in conjunction with a series of team events and marketing initiatives designed to mark its 70th year of play in the NFL, and industry sources said they are not driven by pressure placed on the Redskins to change their nickname.
Some Native American groups have implored the team to make a nickname change, a legal decision stripping the team of its trademark to the name is on appeal and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments issued a non-binding resolution in November requesting a switch. Owner Dan Snyder, however, has steadfastly refused to make a change.
The Redskins are expected to get a major boost in revenues from revising their uniform. NFL clubs share profits equally from the wholesale cost of merchandise, but teams keep the difference between the wholesale and retail cost when selling it themselves. That adds up quickly for clubs like the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, who sell lots of merchandise through team stores and at training camp. The NFL sells about $3 billion in licensed merchandise a year. The Redskins themselves reaped an estimated $12 million last year in concession and merchandise sales.
Local retailers active in selling Redskins merchandise were anticipating spikes in customer traffic.
“This will go over big,” one area retailer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “There is such a devoted fan base here, people will definitely go for the new stuff, and some people will collect the old stuff before it becomes unavailable.”
Several NFL teams have undergone “retro” changes in recent years, including the New York Giants and Jets. Both teams have returned to uniforms used during 1960s with widespread fan acceptance. Since 1997, nine NFL teams have redesigned their uniforms, and the new Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans have come into existence.
The Redskins’ burgundy helmet with the Indian head logo has been used for nearly three decades after being created in 1972. In 1970 and 1971 the Redskins used a yellow helmet bearing the letter “R.”
Ironically, the new helmet is similar to what is worn by Florida State, the archrival of Florida, where first-year Redskins coach Steve Spurrier spent the past 12 seasons.
Snyder has been a fan of the spear helmet for several years, and he intended to use it with the Arena Football League team that supposedly was coming to Washington. The NFL, however, had rights over the logo and would not allow Snyder to use it.
The new uniforms will be manufactured by Reebok as part of the NFL’s massive 10-year merchandising deal.
Staff writer Rick Snider contributed to this report.