This past weekend, the Tennessee Titans hosted the Houston Texans for a Week 15 matchup.
No big deal right?
Well, according to many, it seemed as though the Titans made a bit of a fashion faux pas, as the Titans showed up to the party wearing the uniforms they wore way back when they themselves used to live in Houston. Some would call it a tribute, most others are calling it a troll job.
This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen a relocated team wearing a uniform from their old location, it happens all the time, but what made this a little more unique was that the opponent happened to be from that old location — with many former fans of that team tuned in, some of whom still very much feeling burned by losing a team they loved so much.
The Oakland Athletics wore 1965 Kansas City A’s uniforms at home against the Royals in 2015, the Atlanta Braves faced the Red Sox at Fenway Park in 1997 while wearing 1908 Boston Braves uniforms, the Los Angeles Lakers welcomed the Minnesota Timberwolves to Southern California while wearing Minneapolis Lakers throwbacks in 2002, and just last month the Utah Jazz wore New Orleans Jazz uniforms at home against the Pelicans.
Suppose you expand this to include teams that carried over their uniforms or logos with them. In that case, you’ve got the New Orleans Hornets wearing “Hugo” on their shorts in Charlotte against the Bobcats, the Dallas Stars (in new uniforms but with the old Minnesota North “STARS” wordmark across their chest) visiting the Wild in 2000. There’s, of course, the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders who have come back to Los Angeles a few times to face both the Chargers and Rams while wearing their never-changing silver, black, and white uniforms. The Arizona Cardinals wore their then-current home red set (but still the same as what they wore in St. Louis) when they hosted the St. Louis Rams in 2003.
You’ll notice a theme in all those above examples: these were teams who retained their original identity after relocating. The old name (and in many cases, so did the logos, uniforms, and colours) were carried with them to their new homes, seemingly giving those clubs more of a pass when it comes to breaking out the old sets.
This isn’t the same as what happened with the Titans and the Oilers — this was a team that dropped the old name, logo, and uniforms altogether. After a couple of days worth of research (hey, I enjoyed it) I was able to nail down at least three other cases in which a completely rebranded team wore their pre-move uniforms against their former home city.
Let’s take a look…
BALTIMORE ORIOLES / ST. LOUIS BROWNS
Following the 1953 season, the St. Louis Browns left their home of a half-century. They headed east to Baltimore, Maryland, where they’d drop the St. Louis Browns name in favour of Baltimore Orioles, named after the longtime local Minor League ballclub.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles would co-exist for fifty seasons before the two teams would finally meet for the first time, an interleague series at Busch Stadium in June 2003. The Orioles would mark the occasion by wearing uniforms paying tribute to the 1944 American League Champion St. Louis Browns — the caps looked great but the jerseys weren’t at all accurate, though they did include the proper commemorative sleeve patch from that season. The Cardinals joined in on the fun by wearing their own 1944 uniforms, and referring to the Orioles as the “Browns” on the scoreboard and for all P.A. announcements.
Nobody in St. Louis seems to have minded this, likely fueled by the fact that 50 years had passed between the move and the game. This would be the same as a team in 2023 wearing the uniforms from their past location after moving in 1973, a comparable situation would be if the Texas Rangers wore 1960s Washington Senators throwbacks against the Nationals. Would anyone be upset? I can’t imagine so.
CAROLINA HURRICANES / HARTFORD WHALERS
The Hartford Whalers, with their now iconic green and blue logo and uniform set, actually announced they were relocationg before they actually had a place to move to. While a few locations were considered — Cleveland at one point was a contender — the club eventually shifted south to North Carolina in 1997 where anything associated with the old identity was tossed aside in favour of the new black and red Carolina Hurricanes.
Love for the old Whalers continued on — capitalizing on nostalgia, Hartford’s AHL team underwent a short-lived rebranding, changing their name from the Hartford Wolf Pack to the Connecticut Whale for three seasons in the early 2010s. In 2015, the name returned in the NWHL (later PHF), with the Connecticut team using it until the league folded in 2023.
Not one to be left out, the Carolina Hurricanes announced they’d honour their past selves with a “Whalers Night” on December 23, 2018 against the Boston Bruins (and yes, the Whalers used to play their home games in Boston, so this one counts). During the game, the Hurricanes would wear the old green and white Whalers road uniforms of the 1980s, topping things off with the playing of their old theme song “Brass Bonanza” after every goal. The Whalers uniforms returned three months later when the ‘Canes wore them up in Boston on March 5, 2019, bringing it back to where the franchise began. Since then, the Hurricanes have worn Whalers uniforms several times, including a silver version (never worn by the original club) and a new home white throwback which will debut in 2024.
And that leads us to this past weekend.
TENNESSEE TITANS / HOUSTON OILERS
The Houston Oilers, originally members of the American Football League, merged into the NFL to form the AFC in 1970. After a couple of decades in the Astrodome, the Oilers moved on up to Memphis where they played two seasons as the Tennessee Oilers before shifting to Nashville, changing their name to the Titans (and promptly securing a spot in the Super Bowl) in 1999.
Three years later, the NFL expanded, putting a team back in Houston for the 2002 season. At the time, the league said the Oilers name was “retired” and not available for the new Houston team to use — forcing them to pick an all-new name (the “Houston Texans”) and start things over again, just a few short years after the league re-wrote history to erase the Cleveland Browns move to Baltimore (for those curious, the NFL historybooks say the Ravens were an expansion team — they just happened to get the entire Browns roster, staff, and ownership, while the new Browns were a continuation of a temporarily suspended franchise, but still got to participate in an expansion draft).
So you can see why Houston fans feel a little cheated here.
The Titans brought back the old Houston Oilers uniforms for three games in 2009 as part of a celebration for 50 seasons since the AFL’s first season, but none of these games were against the Texans. Delayed due to the NFL’s helmet rules, Oilers throwbacks were shelved until the 2023 season, when the Titans brought them out for two games, the second of which was at home against the Houston Texans. The fans from Houston were not amused, a SportsLogos.Net poll showed almost 3/4 of all respondents thought the move was disrespectful. They’d get the final laugh, however, as the Texans beat the Oilers/Titans in overtime.
Titans wearing Oilers uniforms vs Houston
— Chris Creamer | SportsLogos.Net (@sportslogosnet) December 17, 2023
There’s been a couple more times when we almost saw this happen, both in the NHL, both during the pre-season, and both of which would have had the relocated teams wearing their old uniforms in front of their former market’s home crowd for a neutral site contest.
On September 28, 2002, the Colorado Avalanche returned to Quebec City, where they played as the Quebec Nordiques, to face the Montreal Canadiens. The Avs were officially the road team but used the Nords’ old home dressing room and got to wear home white uniforms. There was a brief discussion among organizers to have the Avs wear the old Nordiques uniforms, even if it was just during the pre-game skate, but they ultimately decided against it.
“There’s only three players left on the Avalanche who wore it and anyway, we don’t have any [jerseys] left,” explained Nicole Bouchard, a former media relations staffer for the Nordiques.
Nordiques uniforms would make an appearance, however, when the three former players – Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg, and Joe Sakic skated onto the ice wearing the old blue sweater, saluting the crowd to a rousing standing ovation.
Four years later, a similar situation unfolded in Winnipeg when the Phoenix Coyotes — the former Winnipeg Jets — returned to town for a pre-season game against the Edmonton Oilers on September 17, 2006. The Coyotes had plans to wear Jets throwback uniforms for the game but, at the last minute, decided against it.
“The Coyotes’ planned gesture might not have erased the lingering hurt,” wrote Paul Friesen in that morning’s Winnipeg Sun, “but it would have been appreciated, nonetheless.”
“But it’s not going to happen. The jersey plan has been nixed, although no one’s quite sure by who.”
While it seems as though fans in Quebec and Winnipeg would have welcomed the idea, those in Hartford and Houston were very much of the opposite point-of-view. So how do you feel about teams leaving markets and then wearing their old uniforms again? Is it okay now and then? How about wearing them AGAINST the old market? Does the city getting a new team heal some of the old wounds? Let me know in the comments.