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The NFL Color Rush is a promotion done in conjunction with the National Football League (NFL) and Nike that promotes so-called “color vs. color” matchups with teams in matchup-specific uniforms that are primarily one solid color with alternating colored accents, primarily airing on Thursday Night Football. Despite being promoted as color vs. color, some games have one team wearing traditional white uniforms, either by choice or out of necessity. The uniforms don’t count against each team with regards to their allowed alternate uniform allotment. The games have received mixed responses from fans.
History of color vs. color matchups Early years
In the early days of the NFL up through World War II, it was not uncommon to see teams wearing their team colored uniforms against each other, often only wearing a second jersey if the uniforms were too similar. Following the arrival of the rival All-America Football Conference where each team had both a team colored jersey and a white jersey, NFL teams began adding a white jersey as a neutral color to avoid color clashes. Again, this was only used if teams such as the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers (the latter before the arrival of Vince Lombardi) played each other and had similar jersey colors. Additionally, NFL teams were not required to add a white jersey.
It would not be the AAFC (which partially merged into the NFL in 1950) that would change the status quo, but the mainstream adoption of television. Due to the technical limitations of TV airwaves at the time, broadcasters could only air games (and all other TV programming) in black and white, making it hard for fans to tell their teams apart. Out of necessity, starting with the 1957 NFL season, all NFL teams were required to have both a team colored jersey and a white jersey, with the team colored jerseys being worn at home and white jerseys being worn at away games. This caused teams such as the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Los Angeles Rams (none of which had a white jersey for the 1956 season) to add a contrasting white jersey. In the Rams case, it also forced the team to drop their gold jersey, as it was considered “too light” to wear against teams wearing white jerseys, replaced by blue jerseys. Other teams such as the Cleveland Browns that had worn white as their primary home uniform were also no longer allowed to wear those jerseys at home.
For the 1964 NFL season, the league allowed the home team to decide which jersey could be worn at home, which prompted many teams to wear their white jerseys at home so that fans could see the colors of the visiting team. With blackout policies not allowing the home games to be aired in home markets until 1973, this also meant that fans not attending games in person at times only saw the team’s darker colored uniform on TV, which depending on the television they were watching may still be in black and white. Despite this rule change and the widespread adoption of color television by the end of the 1960s, the color/white rule generally remains in effect for the NFL to the present day even as college football relaxed its jersey rules in 2009.