By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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CLEVELAND — In an offseason filled mostly by Johnny Manziel headlines and low-excitement signings, the Cleveland Browns gave their fans a reason to cheer Tuesday for the first time since their final win of 2014.
Nearly 3,000 Browns supporters — a majority of which were season-ticket holders, according to the team — flowed into the Cleveland Convention Center to pose for pictures with super fans, current and past players, and even the team’s live canine mascot, Swagger. The scene — beer-clutching fans clad in orange and brown, chanting for their team — resembled an indoor tailgate as those in attendance awaited the main event: the introduction of new uniforms.
“Social media is made for moments like these,” Browns president Alec Scheiner said Tuesday evening.
Moments like this:
This one is for you @DanHanzus pic.twitter.com/0cXHPVlLSP
— Nick Shook (@TheNickShook) April 14, 2015
The Browns, a team steeped and, quite frankly, stubborn in sticking to its traditional uniform scheme, revealed their three new jerseys, pants and a helmet to a standing-room-only crowd less than a mile away from FirstEnergy Stadium. Current players Joe Thomas, Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Barkevious Mingo, Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, Armonty Bryant, Chris Kirksey and Taylor Gabriel took the stage shrouded in team sideline overcoats before removing them as those in attendance roared.
The team’s primary colors — mostly unchanged since the franchise’s inception in 1946 — were incorporated into three new sets, totaling nine different possible combinations. The most vivid detail of the new sets, though, is the bold “CLEVELAND” printed across the chest.
“If anybody loves it, I love it,” Whitner, a Cleveland native, said of the detail, the first of its kind in the NFL. “You know when you hear Browns, you don’t really know what people are talking about, but when you hear Cleveland, you know where that is on the map. … I love having Cleveland on the front and I know the fans, the majority of them love having Cleveland on the front.”
Whitner was apparently right, as fans rushed to the pop-up team shop set up inside the ballroom, and immediately threw their newly purchased jerseys over their heads.
Nate Uretzlaff, design director of football apparel for Nike, and NFL creative director Shandon Melvin gushed over the incorporation of contrast stitching on the uniforms as a representation of Cleveland’s place in American manufacturing and the now exactly even brown-white-brown stripes on the new helmet. The team’s pants also include “BROWNS” running vertically down the lower half of the pants.
Reaction on Twitter was mixed, with some comparing the uniforms to retail items manufactured by FUBU in the early 2000s, and others trumpeting their modern look. Uretzlaff and Melvin talked about the final design process, which included testing on the field under the lights at FirstEnergy Stadium. Whitner added that he thinks his favorite combination, the all-orange uniform, will look great during night games along the shore of Lake Erie.
The actual performance of the team — bold uniforms or not — remains to be seen.