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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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NFL Throwback Uniform Push Hits Legal Obstacle

  • League sends cease-and-desist letter to University of Houston
  • School looked to pay homage to city's football history, local police force
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s throwback uniform wave has hit celebrated new heights this season with retro designs from teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning widespread praise from fans and pundits. 

Now, a new legal fight involves one of the most revered looks of all.

The league has sent a formal cease-and-desist letter to the University of Houston, according to documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle, asking them to immediately stop their “blatant copying” of the Houston Oilers’ former uniforms. In addition to preventing any merchandise sales, the NFL also sought to discontinue any social media or promotional efforts involving the uniforms.

The Cougars wore those uniforms — which feature a powder-blue color scheme with red stripes — for their Sept. 2 season opener against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Despite no move by the university to monetize its homage to the Oilers’ famed “Luv Ya Blue” era, the NFL is looking to put a halt to any such activity.

“The Houston Cougars’ attempt to free-ride on the popularity of the NFL and the club violates the intellectual property rights of the NFL and the [Tennessee] Titans,” wrote league attorney Bonnie L. Jarrett in an Oct. 13 letter.

On Sunday, the Titans wore Oilers throwbacks in their home victory over the Atlanta Falcons and will again later this season in a game against the Houston Texans. After the Oilers left for Tennessee to become the Titans after the 1996 season, the team retained the Oilers’ trademarks.

Cougars Response

The Cougars haven’t sold any of their light-blue uniforms, saying there were “roadblocks” in the approval process, and have taken down relevant social media posts. The school added it was merely paying respect to a former era in Houston’s football history, as well as a color used for many years by the Houston Police Department.

“When and if we plan to market merchandise, I remain committed to coming to you for further discussion prior to implementation if it becomes necessary,” wrote Dona Cornell, university vice chancellor for legal affairs, in a response to NFL Properties.

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