The Detroit Lions sent fans in a frenzy this week with a simple post to social media. Advertising their new alternate helmet—their first blue helmet in over a half century—they captioned a photo of it with “Black and Blue Division”—the long-time nickname of the NFC North/Central.
Immediately, fans baselessly speculated that black uniforms were on its way. Nevermind that the blue helmet was displayed on a black background, they KNEW black uniforms had to be on its way.
The speculation only grew further when a fan who was doing a tour of the team facility this week noticed that the Lions’ current alternate uniforms—the all grey color rush—were curiously missing from the team’s display in the lobby.
Admittedly, this suddenly had my attention. So when a fan asked the following question for our mailbag:
Can the team update their color rush unis without updating their homes and aways? We know the traditional jerseys are coming next year, but is there a rule to stop them from updating the color rush this year to go with the new helmet?— Ted Skroback (@ReporterRetired) July 12, 2023
... I was ready to do some research.
So let’s start there. We know the Lions aren’t changing their home/away uniforms this year, but can they update their alternates separately?
The answer is YES. Here’s the wording directly from the NFL’s bylaws:
“Third, be it Further Resolved, that a Club may not change its regular home and away uniforms more than once every five NFL seasons, and may not change its third uniform design more than once every five NFL seasons, absent specific extenuating circumstances.”
It’s been more than five years since the Lions introduced the grey alternates, so the Lions can update that this year. And it will still have been more than five years since their latest home/away updates, so they could then update those next year as well.
Okay, so maybe there are legs to this black uniform stuff. Let’s dig a little deeper.
So are black uniforms coming in 2023?
I’m going to squash this right away. The answer is almost certainly no.
First, the process for updating the team’s uniform design is an extremely long one. Teams have to give the league a full year’s notice that they plan on making changes, and they have to continually update the league with design updates and samples along the way. Here’s a timeline provided by the league:
So what? Maybe the Lions have been planning on this uniform change for over a year and have been keeping it under wraps?
Yeah, that’s certainly possible, but highly unlikely for several reasons. For one, team president Rod Wood said new uniforms weren’t coming this year.
“There will not be new uniforms in 2023,” Wood told the Detroit Free Press in February. “I know people get over their skis on that. It takes really two years to really get it going, so (Lions chief communications and brand officer) Brian (Facchini) and a team have been kind of working with Nike, looking at uniforms that will probably be for 2024. It could be an interesting overhaul of the uniforms. We will have a new alternative helmet though this year. We didn’t do that (last season).”
Why would Wood spill the beans about the alternate helmet and not the new uniform?
Additionally—and most damning of all—the Lions already said they’re wearing their all-gray uniforms this year.
In the midst of their reveal of the new helmets, they specifically announced that those helmets would be worn with the all-gray uniforms this year. Check the caption in the bottom left:
So unless the Lions did not communicate a long-planned change to the alternate uniforms to whoever was responsible for the rollout of the new helmet—or the team is purposely lying to us—there are no black uniforms coming in 2023.
In 2024, however...