Everyone knows about the players, coaching staff, and managers, but there’s one NFL job that doesn’t get much attention: the uniform inspectors. That’s right, the NFL employs 64 uniform inspectors, whose job it is to make sure players are conforming to the league’s uniform standards. They’re at every single game, eyeing up the players on the field and making sure that everything is up to code.
Why does this NFL job even exist?
Uniform inspectors exist for a few different reasons. Player safety is a major issue in professional football today, and uniform inspectors enforce the rules in order to keep players as safe as possible.
They ensure that every player on the field is wearing the proper padding and that they are not wearing any modified safety equipment. The league outlawed the use of nonstandard face masks, because they could damage the integrity of the helmet, causing more harm than good.
Tinted visors are also against the rules, because medical staff may need to see a player’s eyes without removing their helmet. While some rules may seem inconvenient, it’s important to keep the game as safe as possible.
Uniform inspectors also have to keep an eye out for any logos, brands, or messages on players’ uniforms that conflict with the NFL’s commercial agreements. Players are only allowed to show logos of the NFL’s official partners. Any other logos need to be covered up. Colors are all approved by the team ahead of time, and players have to adhere to those acceptable colors to maintain a clean and orderly team appearance.
It’s also important to maintain fairness between all 32 teams, and the uniform inspectors need to be on top of that as well. Kickers’ shoes are regulated throughout the league, so as to not give anyone an unfair advantage. Players are not allowed to wear anything that, in the opinion of the uniform inspector, may intentionally confuse or distract an opponent. Tear-away jerseys were banned back in the ’70s to stop players from using them to avoid tackles.
The NFL has a ton of uniform rules you probably don’t know about
The NFL’s uniform rules have always been strict and players have often suffered fines because of them. Last season, New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata was fined over $6,000 because his socks weren’t pulled up all the way.
In 2017, another Saints player, Alvin Kamara, was fined close to the same amount for adding jingle bells to his cleats during a game on Christmas Eve. Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams was fined over $5,000 in 2015 for wearing eye black stamped with “Find The Cure” to honor his mother and four of his aunts, all who died from breast cancer.
He took things a step further and later decided to dye his hair pink since the league wouldn’t let him wear any pink on his uniform outside of October’s breast cancer awareness games.
While uniform fines sometimes seem a little petty, uniform inspectors aren’t necessarily the bad guys. They talk directly to the players and staff before each game, addressing any issues they see ahead of time and giving the players a chance to correct them.
If they spot a uniform infraction during the game, the player is given a chance to correct the issue. If they refuse, the player receives a penalty and, most likely, a fine. Fines collected from uniform infractions don’t go back to the NFL – they actually go to programs like the NFL Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw Players Association’s Players Assistance Trust, both of which benefit the health and well-being of former players.