If you’ve never seen the helmets the San Francisco 49ers rolled out 25 years ago this week, that’s understandable: The team never wore them in a game.
But those helmets, which replaced the classic “SF” logo with a then-modern looking “49ers” logo, were introduced with great fanfare by coach George Seifert and owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. in February of 1991, with the team saying it was time for a fresh look. It did not go over well.
“The phones keep ringing,” team PR assistant Al Barba told the San Francisco Chronicle. “People are saying the old logo was classier, that it meant San Francisco. I guess they basically don’t like it.”
It’s easy to see why they didn’t like it: That “49ers” logo was ugly, and the old “SF” logo, which the team still uses today, is classy. Some fans worried that moving away from “SF” was the first step toward moving out of San Francisco.
“That’s great, the new logo stunk,” one fan told the Chronicle after DeBartolo apologized and announced his team wouldn’t change logos after all. “I was kind of worried that if DeBartolo could change the helmet logo that fast, the next thing [it] was going to be the San Jose 49ers.”
As it turned out, the 49ers now play closer to San Jose than to San Francisco. But at least they’re not wearing ugly helmets.