Despite a series of gentle Ram protests, the National Football League has prohibited the team from wearing jerseys featuring a small patch that reads, "Drug Use Is Life Abuse."
The patches, which made their debut on Ram jerseys last Oct. 23 in a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Anaheim Stadium, were the idea of Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates. Gates then enlisted the help of Ram owner Georgia Frontiere, who had the slogans sewn onto every Ram uniform.
But unlike several other NFL teams that have added patches to their playing attire in past years, the Rams failed to inform the league of the plan and the NFL sacked the patch.
Jim Heffernan, NFL director of public relations, said Wednesday that the Rams were reminded last year of league policy concerning the use of such uniform patches, even ones with noble messages. And two weeks before the start of the 1989 Ram exhibition season, the NFL again expressed its displeasure with the patches and told the team to remove them from the jerseys.
According to NFL rules, a player is prohibited from wearing or displaying equipment, apparel or other items that carry commercial names, names of organizations other than the player's team and personal messages of any type.
The Rams readily admit that they didn't tell the NFL about the patches last year, but said they saw no reason to.
"We felt that it was really in compliance with the league's drug policy," said Marshall Klein, Ram vice president in charge of media and community relations. "We just felt it was something that should be done. It's not a commercial message, any more than you would say, 'God bless America.' I mean, nobody has to check before they do the national anthem."
Klein said Frontiere was disappointed by the NFL's decision, but that the organization would abide by the rule and had no plans to appeal the decision. Klein added, however, that perhaps the NFL had missed the point of the patches.
"If it is a commercial message, it's a message of the highest priority," he said. "If it dissuaded one young man or young girl from doing drugs it was worth the whole year. We would have thought that the league would have let it continue."