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Football fans may notice National Football League coaches wearing camouflage attire ~ which doesn’t seem to fit any NFL team color scheme, or match a club logo. What’s up with that?
NFL coaches and team staff are known to sport camo clothing items around November, to honor Veterans Day that month. Additionally, for many years, coaches and club personnel have worn the camo gear to participate in the NFL’s annual Salute to Service campaign, spotlighted in games during Weeks 10, 11, and 12.
Since 2011, the league’s military nonprofit partners have been the beneficiaries of over $58 million raised for them as part of Salute to Service.
The program actually is year-round, to “Honor, empower, and connect our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families.” Its basis is to closely partner with nonprofits and organizations that support the U.S. military community at home and abroad.
The Salute to Service campaign features the NFL’s sale of camouflage-tinged clothing items on the league website (NFL.com), plus an auction of military-related gear players and coaches wore during games.
All profits from the sales of camo clothing goes to organizations that serve the U.S. military community, as explained above.
The NFL is quite unlike MLB in terms of allowing the tinkering of uniforms. NFL teams may sport full “throwback” uniforms, in styles of years past, but the league rarely if ever lets teams wear jerseys or large uniform items in colors supporting causes. It is not often that you’ll see camo uniform items on the field.
The players themselves, however, could join together and do something to show their support in their own way. Groups of players might band together and place colored stripes or decals of a war Medal on helmets, in special respect for branches or any part of the military.
For instance, the Dallas Cowboys in mid-season 2021 wore a long red strip on their helmets for a game against the Denver Broncos.
Players are free to wear stickers for any number of reasons, as long as the details are allowed by the NFL’s strict uniform rules. (Sometimes they do even when it goes against the rules, pretty much accepting the fine in advance).
The decals and the helmets on which they were stuck are not sold or auctioned off as part of an NFL campaign.
Other ways NFL teams and players might support Salute to Service includes scheduling special moments for military recognition at games, and events off the field. NFL players and coaches also still visit American military bases all over the world.
Players also might send letters to, or host video calls with, veterans and active service members regularly. Even superstars like former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmet Smith, or Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, like to surprise veterans by video as part of the campaign.
Salute to Service is not a stand-alone campaign by the NFL to lend its helping hand to American troops. In fact, the NFL has a history of supporting U.S. troops dating back a half-century.
It started about 50 years ago when the NFL partnered with United Service Organizations (USO), which eventually sent NFL players to visit with active military personnel who were taking breaks from their busy work keeping us all safe.
Through the years, the NFL has nurtured several other partnerships related to helping the military, including:
- Pat Tillman Foundation. Starting in 2010, the NFL arranged a partnership with this organization created in the name of the famous player who sacrificed his life to his country. The partnership’s goal is to honor exceptional individuals who demonstrate qualities that reflect the legacy of former Arizona Cardinals safety and U.S. serviceman Pat Tillman. The program offers school scholarships for veterans, active military personnel, and spouses.
- Wounded Warrior Program. The NFL consistently contributes to this program, which helps military personnel who suffered injuries whether physical or mental during or after the 9/11 attacks. To date the league’s contributions have assisted more than 2,500 combat veterans across the nation.
- USAA Sponsorship. Since 2011, the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) has been an official military appreciation sponsor for the league. The USAA helped launch the campaign, and has promoted it with special events like fan demonstrations, or hosting groups of military personnel at games.
The league still partners with USO, and also is engaged with TAPS, and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
Then of course there’s the Salute to Service campaign, in which every NFL club along with the fans exhibit respect and gratitude for veterans and their sacrifices along with those of their families.
Each year the items fans can purchase to help raise money for the Salute to Service campaign can change. Team hoodies are extremely popular.
Depending on the season, fans also might find shirts, hats, ski caps, towels, and more.
Then there’s the NFL auction related to the Salute to Service campaign.
Items to be found there can include multi-ticket packages to NFL games, game-used jerseys, all auctioned off during set periods of time during the weeks in which the campaign is staged. It’s an exciting way to buy very unique or otherwise unattainable items ~ all for a good cause.
Camouflage clothing items have been consistent on NFL fields for at least a decade. It’s not unusual to see the camo designs in other sports, too.
In fact, many sports fans point to the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball for first testing the concept at the turn of the century.
San Diego has a very large U.S. Navy port and presence, and the city and its communities have been proud of the naval tradition for many years. Since 2000, the club has been showing off new combos and styles of camo at home games each year.
The Padres are an interesting case study, since there are only so many types of camo to go around. They have used the classic green camouflage, as well as more modern Desert Storm or navy blue. Their tradition also grew along with the military’s garb and today you might see digital camouflage shirts on the Friars.
Before 2000, it was relatively unusual to see MLB teams wear uniforms dramatically different from the usual team colors on white or gray.
Today, it’s quite common for major sports teams to wear special uniforms to commemorate all kinds of causes, holidays, or events ~ in baseball, football, and more.
In baseball, the lead of the Padres was soon followed by other clubs including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox. Even NASCAR has races where its participants show off camo stylings on their vehicles.
Question: Do all NFL coaches wear camo for the annual Salute to Service campaign?
Answer: No. Notably, head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has not worn the camo, basically because of his comfort on the sidelines, and maybe a little superstition. Even though Belichick’s father served in the Navy, the coach says, “I just wear the same thing for every game. So, I don’t change what I wear weekly based on whatever the theme of the week is.” Instead, Belichick chooses other actions to indicate his support for our troops. “I don’t think what sweatshirt I wear is that important. What’s important to me is what your actions are, what you do, so I try to make those count,” he said.
Q.: Can’t the NFL force coaches to wear things, especially for league-wide efforts?
A.: No. Either the league will respect a coach’s wishes not to participate (as Belichick did), or they could choose to fine such coaches for ignoring league directives. Being a coach in the NFL is not easy, and the league respects coach decisions in their own wardrobe ~ especially for veteran or respected coaches.
Q.: Are there other “themes of the week” in the NFL?
A.: Yes. For instance, since 2009 the league and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have joined forces to raise money and generate awareness in the battle against cancer. When you see NFL coaches or players don tie-dyed designs, it’s to promote the Crucial Catch Program, initiated by the ACS, which assists with detection and early treatment of cancer.
Q.: Will we see special NFL uniforms for the playoffs, or Super Bowl?
A.: Probably not. Which uniform to wear in postseason games is up to the club and, especially, the team. In fact, whichever team is deemed the “home” team for the Super Bowl gets to decide whether or not it wants to wear all-white, or dark jerseys indicating the visiting team.