What happens when you put two teams decked head-to-toe in green and red on one football field? Thousands of fans seeing nothing but gray.
NFL sponsor Nike’s Color Rush initiative did just that during a game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets on Thursday, November 12. The uniform designs, intended to be a “bold new look” celebrating the 50th year of football on color TV, ended up worse than black and white for color blind spectators.
It appears that Nike forgot to consider just how common color blindness is: one in twelve men have it, along with .5 percent of women. Without any other visual cues, the Bills’ red suits and the Jets’ green ones were nearly identical to many. NFL uniforms are typically distinguished not only by team colors, but by featuring one team fully or partially in white.
Because colorblind folks have the most trouble with reds and greens, it didn’t help that the Bills and Jets were decked out in bright holiday colors. They may have well been watching a homogeneous 22 person team in monochromatic spandex. I guess five decades of color TV is enough time to forget that some people don’t have the retinal cone cells, no matter the quality of their television.
Even the Bills’ head coach, Rex Roy, was confused. “I look out there and my team’s in red. Blue, I might have had a chance,” he said. “But I’m like, ‘Who are they? Oh shoot, that’s us. So, it’s different.” The NFL called it a Christmas-tinged nightmare, though it was obviously porridge-tinged for some.
As for fans without vision impairment, they haven’t reacted all too positively to the look either. Football fans aren’t known for their mild manners any more than New Yorkers are, and there’s a 100% particular overlap in this case. Twitter exploded with complaints and jokes, as Twitter is wont to do, with players compared to power rangers, gummy bears and Christmas ornaments.
The Color Rush initiative is meant to honor each franchise by combining current and historic team colors in unique and bold uniforms, which each of the 32 teams will don during Thursday night games. Fortunately, Nike now knows that there are other factors than pomp and circumstance to take into consideration while testing new uniform designs.