Of all the difficult decisions the Rams have made in recent years relocating and building a new stadium, rebranding the team to win over L.A. was perhaps the easiest.
Just coming back as the Los Angeles Rams would have been enough.
There was no need hire an artist to re-create the team logo or a designer to make over the uniform. The Rams didn’t have to figure out a way to be authentic to Los Angeles because they were part of this city’s fabric. They were the city’s first professional sports team, in 1946. The Dodgers moved here in 1958; the Lakers arrived in 1960.
Yet, here we are. The Rams had planned to show off their new uniforms in July at what would have been the first event at SoFi Stadium in July, a couple of days before a since-postponed Taylor Swift concert. Instead, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was done Wednesday online and over social media, and it’s a good thing. Because it’s easier to ignore angry tweets than it is the loud boos of a live crowd.
“They told us they wanted the horns,” Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, said in March when the team revealed its new logo. “They said they wanted blue and yellow and that’s what we did.”
No, actually that’s not what happened.
Rams fans wanted their horns back, they wanted their blue back and they wanted their yellow back.
They weren’t providing arbitrary talking points to take back to an artist to reimagine a new look to, as Demoff said this week, “match the style and design” of SoFi Stadium. The fans wanted the throwback jerseys of Eric Dickerson, Jack Youngblood, Deacon Jones and Roman Gabriel that they were already wearing to the Coliseum.
Demoff might have thought he was listening, but he didn’t hear.
The Rams were the first NFL team to have a logo on their helmets after halfback Fred Gehrke, the great-grandfather of 2018 National League MVP Christian Yelich, painted horns on the team’s leather helmets in 1948. The iconic blue helmet and yellow horn circling the ear hole became the gold standard for helmet design. Gehrke’s logo had been the club’s trademark until the Rams’ redesign this off-season.
The classic Rams uniforms were one of the best in NFL history and as distinctly Los Angeles as the Lakers’ purple and gold or the Dodgers’ blue and white.
While the Lakers and Dodgers may occasionally tinker with their uniforms, they understand and appreciate their history and what the symbols mean to the city. The Rams have never understood or appreciated their history in Los Angeles and what their classic uniforms and horns mean to their fans.
They didn’t need to reimagine something. The fans just wanted their Rams back, iconic uniforms and all. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Jerseys and logos in sports become part of the lexicon and become iconic because of what players do in them, not because of what the design is,” Demoff told reporters Tuesday. “So we’re really excited to see it come to life.”
The core of that statement is correct, but the Rams’ actions based on that fact were wrong. The Rams uniform and logo became iconic not only because of what Dickerson, Youngblood, Jones and Gabriel did in them, but the connection that was built between them and their fans over a span of 50 years. Those uniforms and that helmet represented the thread that connected generations of Rams fans. This isn’t simply about a bad redesign; it’s about ignoring the significance of what the old design represented.
If the Rams had simply rolled out the classic blue and yellow uniforms that Dickerson and Youngblood wore as their primary threads and the blue and white uniforms that Jones and Gabriel wore as their alternates, Rams fans would have rejoiced. Instead, they got a collection of uniforms with gradient numbers as unfamiliar as the words the team used to describe their new colors — Rams Royal (blue), Sol (yellow) and Bone (white).
There aren’t many uniforms that are considered iconic in sports. The Rams had one, but they don’t anymore.