Reggie Bush wore a New Orleans Saints jersey with the number 5 on it for his football card photo, despite NFL rules specifying that running backs wear jerseys in the 20s, 30s, or 40s.
Reggie Bush just might return to the Coliseum this weekend for the NFL Rookie Premiere wearing the No. 5. Just hours an official with the NFL Players Association said that Bush, a running back, would be wearing No. 25 for the union’s trading photo shoot, Bush’s marketing agent Mike Ornstein told ESPN.com that the team is fine with Bush wearing No. 5, and his client will do so.
Reggie Bush’s efforts to get No. 5 will have to go to the desk of commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The NFL Competition Committee held a conference call last Friday and talked about changing the uniform numbering policy.
On Tuesday, Ornstein said he lobbied Saints officials, who have the final say on what number Bush will wear for the photo shoot, and apparently prevailed. Calls placed to the Saints were not immediately returned.
Both No. 5 and No. 25 jerseys will be on hand at the event, according to Pam Adolph, vice president of apparel operations for Players Inc., the union’s marketing arm. For years, Players Inc. has been putting on the event so that card companies can release cards with players in their jerseys before the season starts. Almost all the players have their numbers set by the time of the shoot, though it’s not unprecedented that a player has worn a different number jersey at the shoot than he did once the season started. In 2004, Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. wore No. 11, but at the end of the preseason, Winslow convinced Aaron Shea to allow him to wear No. 80. “Guys have been shot in one number and wound up playing in another,” Adolph said. “If the Saints are OK with it and Reggie is OK with it, we don’t see it as a big deal.”
Bush wore No. 5 in high school and at the University of Southern California, but under current NFL rules, running backs are only allowed to wear numbers 20 through 49. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN.com on Monday that the owners will not be voting specifically on a Bush exemption. In order for Bush to be granted No. 5, the numbering rules themselves would have to be changed.
Ornstein originally said that Bush would donate 25 percent of all the royalties he received from jersey sales toward Hurricane Katrina charities if the league granted him the right to wear No. 5. But Ornstein said that Bush has now agreed to make the donation no matter what number he wears.
Saints running back Fred McAfee currently wears the No. 25, so it’s not exactly clear whether that number will definitely be worn by Bush.
“Truthfully, with Reggie Bush, it’s not going to matter what number he wears,” Josh Goodstadt, an executive with Players Inc., which oversees the production of more than 32 million packs of NFL player trading cards each year. “He’s already so hot in the trading card world and the input we’ve gathered from our licensees is that the number he wears, in the long run, won’t help or hurt the sales of his cards.”
Quite right. And, frankly, I’ve known about this rule since literally before Reggie Bush was born. I don’t understand why athletes with NFL aspirations don’t just pick jersey numbers that conform to those rules when they’re coming up. It’s not like superstar athletes are going to be denied a number–especially when they have 29 to chose from.
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