The NFL changed its jersey policy for this season, paving the way for Robert Griffin III to have “Griffin III” on his nameplate. According to Uni Watch, he’ll be the first in major pro sports to do so.
Near as Uni Watch can figure, this will mark the NFL’s first instance of RNOB (that’s short for “Roman numeral on back”; you can learn more about this and other uni-specific terms in the Uni Watch Glossary). In fact, as far as Uni Watch can tell, this will be the first case of RNOB in any of the Big Four professional leagues -- NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. Yes, several college football and basketball players, including Griffin himself, have worn RNOB at the NCAA level, but never in the pros. So Griffin is breaking some serious new ground here.
The new policy also allowed Roy Helu, Jr. to add the “Jr.” to his last name, something he had to drop last year.
Paul Lukas makes the point that broadcasters aren’t going to say “Griffin the Third” or “Helu Junior” when they do play by play. They’ll use “Griffin” and “Helu.” Lukas speculates that the suffixes, at least for RGIII, are all about marketing.
Presumably because it’s part of Griffin’s personal brand. And that’s not the only kind of branding at work here, because the Roman numeral III can also be viewed as three stripes -- which happens to be the visual signature of adidas, which signed Griffin to a big endorsement contract back in February. In fact, Uni Watch suspects Griffin chose adidas over Nike specifically in large part because of the potential marketing synergies between the Roman numeral and the stripes. He’s the perfect foil for the trefoil.
It’s fair to speculate that the final decision of Adidas over Nike came down to dollars, not stripes. I’m also fairly certain that the league, whose hugely marketed uniforms are a Nike product, wouldn’t change its policy just so RGIII could endorse Adidas.
It’s still an interesting debate. Should players be able to use suffixes on their nameplates? Since we love polls and you love taking them (don't lie, you know you do), weigh in.