December 06, 2010
When Los Angeles Roosevelt (Calif.) High wore black uniforms custom made by Nike in a highly touted rivalry matchup against Los Angeles Garfield (Calif.) High earlier this year, the Rough Riders broke a California Interscholastic Federation City Section rule stipulating that uniforms could only contain school colors. As it turns out, Roosevelt caused itself even more trouble than that, first forced to forfeit the game, then hit with a City Section ruling that the Nike uniforms were so egregious they actually warranted a one-year probation for the football program.
"They had the opportunity to choose colors and for some reason they didn't choose the school colors," City Section commissioner Barbara Fiege told the Los Angeles Times.
The City Section ruling not only forced Roosevelt to essentially toss the brand new, state-of-the-art Nike uniforms aside, taking away badly needed gear that would have cost upwards of $25,000 from a publicly funded program, it also said that Roosevelt coach Javier Cid was responsible for letting the team take the field wearing them in the 76th annual East L.A. Classic. Cid previously told the Los Angeles Times that he knew the uniforms being furnished by Nike would be black, yet he played no part in choosing the color scheme used.
Nike provided the uniforms as part of a brash, grassroots marketing campaign for the company's Pro Combat line of uniforms, which it also has debuted with college football teams across the country this season. The looks in almost all of the Pro Combat line uniforms are edgy and sometimes outside of a school's traditional colors -- Virginia Tech used an all-black uniform similar to Roosevelt's for its first game against Boise State -- while also providing a tighter fit meant to aid mobility.
Yet the company's lack of foresight to clear the colors it used for Roosevelt before the game -- part of a complex plan to keep the uniforms a secret for both teams until the game that night -- backfired magnificently.
Interestingly, there might still be a caveat that could allow Roosevelt to use the uniforms in the 2011 season. The City Section regulations which have been used to punish Roosevelt specifically cite the need for a team's uniforms to include only a school's colors. If Roosevelt filed for a school color change to add black to it's traditional colors of maroon, gold and white, those black uniforms would suddenly be legal again.
The move would be a bit over the top and quite brash, but then again, handing down a year-long probation sentence for uniforms a school had no say in picking seems brash in itself.