The Arena Football League Was a Logo Wasteland

In the 1980's, Arena Football was ahead of its time. Its logo design was not

When I was kid, every once in awhile you would turn onto ESPN and see some a bizarre version of football. The game was played in arenas. The teams wore Zubaz uniforms. It was a wild scene.

Arena football was first invented and patented (yes, patented) in the early 1980s. The first game was played in 1986 and the league started in earnest in 1987.

This was of course before the internet, so the spread and viability of Arena Football was probably more limited than it would be know. Had Arena Football been invented today, it would probably be more of a internet oriented, social media highlight sport. Instead, it languished on and off until the league finally went under in 2019. Indoor football survives in various leagues, but it still is basically pigeonholed as a nineties novelty along with Slamball and Roller Hockey International.

Thought the sport was ahead of its time, most of the 1980s and 1990s era logos were certainly not.

Chris Creamer’s invaluable Sportslogos.net site gives us access to any number of team logos. While you can peruse the entirety of their database at your leisure, lets highlight some of the worst logos, the ones that made the AFL a logo wasteland.

Charlotte Rage

Who punched the bull in the face to make it bleed?

Cincinnati Rockers

Where to even begin with this. The logo is a generic rock and roll font. The caricature of a football player looks like a goof. The guitar in the logo is an acoustic guitar, with which you are certainly not “rocking”. The WNBA did this name better.

Speaking of Cleveland….

Cleveland Thunderbolts

“Hey we need a logo before our first game!”

“Grab the ClipArt!”

This is a combination of Clipart and the ancient WordArt creator.

Dallas Texans

This could very well be the laziest logo of all time.

“Hey that logo for the football team is due in five minutes. You got anything?

(Puts down the martini) “Yeah sure, no problem. I got this.”

Denver Dynamite

Somebody draw a bundle of dynamite and give it a futuristic 80’s era font!

Detroit Drive

What does the image of a football player driving a football have to do with driving? Who knows.

Fort Worth Cavalry

Speaking of bad ClipArt design, I present your the Cavalry with their “Tequila Sunrise” esque coloration.

Miami Hooters

This is less about bad logo design and more bout the fact that the owners of the Sacramento Attack moved to Miami in 1993, got the restaurant change to sponsor the team and just hijacked their logo for their team for a few years.

New Jersey Red Dogs

You remember Red Dog beer? Nobody else does either, but Miller Brewing paid some money to slap their name on an expansion team that eventually became the New Jersey Gladiators before decamping to Las Vegas and then Cleveland. At least they put a little more effort into logo design than Miami did.

New Orleans Night

Honestly this might be the worst of the bunch. Stretched out clip art, almost no colors. It’s terrible. They should have signed Mac Tonight as the quarterback.

Sacramento Attack

I hate this one less than most, but it’s just incredibly odd. It’s just a circle with the word “ATTACK” in front of it. Both the arced city name and the team name are off-center. It’s just weird, and is it any doubt that the team was not successful and had to become the Hooters.

Tampa Bay Storm

The Tampa Bay storm eventually got a few decent logos. This original version……was not it.

Tulsa Talons

The only more recent logo among the bunch. The wordmark is one of the weirdest things I think I’ve seen. It’s more reminiscent of a band logo from the 1950’s than anything to do with a football team.

Now, there were good designs, such as this one from the Miami Vise which is both hilarious in its near copyright infringement but also amazing in its 80’s era simplicity.

It’s no coincidence that every league that has launched in the last twenty years, from the WNBA to the NWHL to the XFL and AAF, have used more professional looking designs. Many of these logos above (along with those Zubaz uniforms) put a minor league patina on the entire Arena League operation.

Would the league have been more successful with better logo design? Maybe, but better logo design was present late in the league’s life and the league went under anyway. But it does go to show you the need for professional design if you want to have your operation taken seriously.