In April, the NFL announced it was relaxing one of its rules regarding the numbers players can wear. It now allows tight ends, wide receivers, running backs and defensive backs to wear single-digit numbers, a privilege that was previously reserved for quarterbacks, punters and kickers.
Many players have expressed interest because there is a lot of identity in the numbers that NFL athletes wear. Unlike baseball and basketball players, football players wear a helmet most of the time.
“We don’t see their faces during games,” said Kevin Seifert, NFL national editor for ESPN. “We don’t necessarily know what a lot of NFL players look like if we just watch them in games, but their numbers are very recognizable.”
Some players just prefer lower numbers, arguing that they make them appear faster or stronger. These changes will encourage serious fans to purchase jerseys with the new numbers, often at $ 120 apiece.
Over the past four decades, jerseys have become a real source of income for the league and its players.
“Players receive two-thirds of the money generated from the sale of shirts,” said Dan Kaplan, editor-in-chief of Athletic. “The other third goes to the union. And the union is putting some of that aside in a pool for all NFL players. “
This means that even third-string linemen who don’t sell a lot of jerseys will still receive a check at the end of the season.
But there’s a catch with these new jerseys: The NFL has long demanded that players who request new numbers get their hands in their pockets and pay for the old jerseys.
“If it was a player’s choice to do it, then he should be responsible for purchasing the inventory with his name on it,” said Jack Mills, who has been an NFL agent for 50 years. Mills said he hasn’t had to advise any of his clients about a jersey change, but he’s not sure it would ever be a good decision.
“If they have to buy a large stock, I think it wouldn’t make sense,” he said. “Unless they somehow thought they were going to sell a lot of them just because they changed shirts.”
The NFL has told players they should pay full retail price for the old jerseys.
“Not even a discount for friends and family, no sort of bulk buying,” said Mike Florio, editor of Profootballtalk.com and author of the book “Playmakers: How the NFL Really Works (and Doesn ‘t ).
Minnesota Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook has considered changing his number from 33 to 4, but he already has a lot of officially licensed gear with “33,” which ultimately doesn’t make sense. .
“The price that was quoted to Dalvin Cook landed in a range of $ 1.5 million,” said Florio.
This is what it would cost Cook to purchase the products sold at official league outlets. But some small retailers would remain in possession of the bag.
Vivian Ramirez runs a store called Locker Room of Downey with her husband. It’s south of Los Angeles, so they sell a lot of equipment for Rams and Chargers. She said the store orders jerseys from the league’s official wholesaler at least a year in advance.
“So it’s a bit of a gamble. You are making an investment, ”Ramirez said. And if a player changes their number, the store must bear the cost.
“People get a little angry. ‘Oh, you change [the] number.’ Now all the salespeople, all the retailers like us, we’re just like, “Oh, now we’re sitting on that number and you weren’t even a popular player,” she said.
Then there is the question of what happens to all those old jerseys. Send them to a landfill? Start a dumpster fire?
LA Rams wide catcher Robert Woods, who goes from 17 to 2, received advice from Rewilder, a sustainable design company focused on recycling – turning old things into new products, like making backpacks or bags. jackets from old jerseys.
“It’s a big part of that – the educational component for the fans, in terms of how to be more sustainable in life,” said Jenny Silbert, founder of the company.
Woods hasn’t decided what to do with the old jerseys, but he’s committed to having the number changed now. Even if he chose to wait until next season, he wouldn’t have to buy the inventory of old jerseys.