NFL sends cease-and-desist letter to University of Houston over Oilers-inspired throwback uniforms

The NFL sent a cease-and-desist letter to the University of Houston due to uniforms UH’s football team wore earlier this season, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Cougars caught the ire of the NFL’s merchandising and licensing division for wearing light blue uniforms in the season opener vs. UTSA on Sept. 2. UH said the uniforms were a tribute to the city’s football history, but the NFL saw the jerseys as “blatant copying” of the old Houston Oilers uniforms.

As a result, the NFL wants Houston to “discontinue all sales of merchandise and remove any promotional campaign or social media posts that feature the popular light blue, or Columbia blue, with red stripes color scheme and design,” the Houston Chronicle reported.

In a letter sent to the university, the NFL said Houston wore the jerseys after it said it informed the school that no consent was given to UH to use the uniform or “any similar designs.”

HOUSTON, TX- SEPTEMBER 02:  (left to right) Houston Cougars defensive lineman Sedrick Williams (0), Houston Cougars wide receiver CJ Nelson (81), Houston Cougars wide receiver Matthew Golden (2) and Houston Cougars offensive lineman Reuben Unije (74) wait to enter the field during the college football game between the UTSA Roadrunners and Houston Cougars on September 2, 2023 at TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The NFL sent the University of Houston a cease-and-desist letter after UH wore light blue uniforms for its season opener vs. UTSA. The NFL says the uniforms are "blatant copying" of those once worn by the Houston Oilers. (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Oilers, of course, left Houston after the 1996 season and relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, and are now known as the Tennessee Titans. The Titans wore Oilers throwback uniforms in their game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

From the Houston Chronicle:

“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,” attorney Bonnie L. Jarrett wrote in the Oct. 13 letter.

Houston did not reference the Oilers when it revealed the uniforms — which are a slightly different shade of blue — in the lead-up to the season opener. Additionally, UH has not sold merchandise as part of the uniform drop.

Still, the NFL considered the uniforms to be an unauthorized use of the Oilers' branding.