Dear NFL, Change The Uniform Number Rule

Justin K. Aller

Stop the madness, Roger Goodell.

Dear NFL,

There is no reason for you to continue to have this rule only allowing players to wear numbers according to their positions. Quarterbacks, kickers and punters are only allowed to wear 1-19, wide receivers can only wear 11-19 and 80-89, running backs can only wear 20-49, and so on and so forth.

Recently the Rams released their rookie numbers. Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey took 11 and 12 respectively, after wearing 1 and 3 in college. I would argue that these players having their old numbers would be better. These numbers would benefit themselves in marketing, and they would also benefit the league with increased jersey sales. 1 and 3 to me are cooler, sleeker numbers than 11 and 12. I would certainly buy a Tavon Austin jersey if he wore number 1, but I won't buy his jersey with number 11. Tavon and Stedman already have a connection with their numbers after wearing them in college, but your rules do not allow them to continue growing their brands by wearing these numbers.

I cannot find one good reason they should be forced to wear "wide receiver" numbers, or a player like Reggie Bush, who made number 5 iconic at USC, should be forced to wear a "running back" number. Some say it helps referees identify which position a player is. This is true, but what is also true is there are no separate rules for quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends on offense, and each player on defense can do anything. A wide receiver can take a snap and play quarterback, a defensive end can drop into coverage and safeties can come up and blitz. There are no separate rules between these positions, so the referees needing to identify which position someone is playing is irrelevant, unless they are offensive linemen. Referees need to be able to identify who are the offensive linemen as they do have a rule no other position has, they cannot go down field.

With this in mind, I propose you change your uniform number policy. Players would be allowed to wear any number they choose, regardless of position. The exception being offensive linemen, who would have to continue to wear numbers so referees can distinguish them from other players, because as mentioned before, they do have separate rules that must be enforced.

Doing this will allow players to further express their individuality and allow them to market themselves more effectively. College football has been using this system for years, and there are no negative drawbacks to it. There are only positives. I find it perplexing the NFL has not adopted the same system. The time to do it is now. Change this silly rule and allow players to wear whatever numbers they desire.


Brandon Birkhead, a life long football fan.

P.S. You should also take a look at the excessive celebration rule. Just let them have some fun. I'm just saying.

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