The NFL uniform policies are atrocious


Courtesy of Flickr | See bottom of story for attribution

Evan Couch, Columnist

The NFL’s uniform policies are atrocious and nothing but a cash grab for the league. The individuality and expression of the league’s athletes suffer as a result of the unnecessary and harsh regulations.

When I started watching the NFL and getting into football many years ago, one thing that always stood out to me was what players were wearing on the field. There was a point in time where I could tell you what game was being played by just looking at a specific player’s on-field attire.

Cleats, gloves, sleeves and visors are all ways that players add personal flair to stand out from one another while still representing the unity of a team.

The NFL, however, has so many ridiculous rules and policies that restrict players when it comes to what they can and can’t wear. 

According to the NFL’s Game Operations Manual, “A player’s appearance on the field conveys a message regarding the image of the league and directly affects the league’s reputation and success.”

Essentially, the league thinks that if all players dress the same, they will look professional and as if they are held to a high standard by the league. 

How would I ever tell that these are professional athletes if they aren’t wearing the right socks or tucking their jerseys in?

There are some rules that serve to benefit players as they apply to “safety.” For example, rules regarding knees being covered by the pants and knee pads as well as illegal tinted helmet visors are some that the league sees as safety precautions. 

The athletes we see on Sunday’s are adults getting paid millions to play and entertain, let them make their own decisions. They are running their faces into each other at full speed, they don’t care about knee pads. If you look at any player out there, chances are their knees are uncovered. 

Players are fined substantial amounts of money when failing to comply with these ridiculous policies. According to, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was fined $14,000 in 2020 for having his pants rolled up above the knee. 

This is nothing new for Beckham as he has done this his entire career. Similar to the thoughts I expressed about this ridiculous rule, Beckham noted that a knee pad won’t protect him from anything. 

Other rules regarding the uniform policy in the NFL have no effect on player safety and just add to the mantra of the “No Fun League”. 

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was fined $5,000 for “showing too much skin” by failing to pull his socks all the way up his leg. What kind of rule is that? Are these professional athletes or high schoolers under a dress code?  

According to the NFL Rulebook, a player’s “stockings must cover the entire area from the shoe to the bottom of the pants, and must meet the pants below the knee.” Why? It looks “professional.” 

The biggest rule that gets me is the NFL’s policy on custom cleats and gloves. In 2017, the league made a rule that allows players to wear whatever cleats and gloves they want during pregame warmups as a way of allowing expression. Anything goes in terms of colors and designs, as long as they are appropriate.  

As soon as that whistle blows and the ball is kicked off, if your cleats and gloves don’t match the team’s uniform in some way, pay up. 

Running back Alvin Kamara was forced to pay $5,000 after wearing custom red and green cleats which stood out from the team’s white and gold uniforms on Christmas day. Definitely a “No Fun League” moment.

Other organizations such as the NBA have shifted their policies regarding uniforms. Before the start of the 2018-2019 season, the NBA changed their rules on color restrictions for players’ shoes. This was done as a way to allow players to express their own individual style as well as show their appreciation for the NBA’s rich history of sneaker culture. 

The NFL needs to take notes. There is no harm done to the reputation of the league when players lace up a custom pair of cleats that does not match their team’s uniforms. 

Although the NFL has made some minor changes to their restrictions, until the oldheads who control the league and set the “standards” are out of power, players will still face these unnecessary policies. 

For the sake of the league’s future and the next generation of players, these rules need to be dropped and the NFL needs to rid themselves of the “No Fun League” title that has lingered for decades.

Photo by All-Pro Reels / CC BY 2.0