To the casual time-traveling observer, it will look like 1976 all over again at AT&T Stadium this Sunday. That’s because the Cowboys’ helmets will feature a red, white, and blue center stripe for the first time since the nation’s 200th birthday 46 years ago.
The subtle tweak to one of the most iconic and longstanding uniforms in all of sports comes during the league’s annual Salute to Service weekend, honoring the men and women of the Unites States military.
For the Cowboys organization, there’s extra meaning. Charlotte Jones, daughter of owner Jerry Jones and a team Executive Vice President, is also the chairman of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, with a new facility set to break ground in Arlington next year, within sight of the Cowboys’ home stadium.
Medal of Honor recipients will be in attendance for the Cowboys-Broncos Week 9 clash. Military members will be recognized at halftime. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders will also alter their uniforms for the one-day special occasion.
For the first time since the 1976 season, the Cowboys will wear a red stripe on their helmets to honor our country’s armed forces and Medal of Honor recipients at the Salute to Service in Sunday’s game against the Broncos. pic.twitter.com/mQtrDb2doo
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) November 3, 2021
The tri-colored helmet stripe was a one-year alteration made in 1976, the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. That year, the country had a collective case of Bicentennial fever. A red, white, and blue train was making a whistle-stop tour across the lower 48 states. Fireworks shows and parades were being planned in major cities. Historic tall ships from around the world docked in American harbors. Collectible coins were minted. Mailboxes and fire hydrants across the country got patriotic paint jobs from local citizens. The 1976 movie Rocky featured nods to the Bicentennial, dressing Apollo Creed’s character as George Washington and then Uncle Sam on fight night. Commercial products in stores were rewrapped in star-spangled packaging.
After sporting a special commemorative jersey patch in Super Bowl X, played in January of that year, the Cowboys’ legendary president and general manager Tex Schramm decided to do something different for the ’76 regular season, which would begin soon after the milestone July 4 celebration.
The Cowboys’ helmet stripe and the Bicentennial festivities were a one-year anomaly. After that 11-3 season and an NFC East title, Roger Staubach and Dallas lost to the Rams in the playoffs. The red, white, and blue helmet stripes were never seen again, except in old photographs of that singular season and now on tours through The Star in Frisco, where a mannequin wearing a reproduction helmet is used as a trivia question by tour guides trying to stump visitors.
And except for this Sunday, when the Spirit of ’76 will live again for one afternoon as America’s Team honors America’s real-life heroes.
“The red stripe on the helmet provides a beautiful ribbon to wrap around this salute to those who currently serve our country’s military,” Charlotte Jones said as part of the official uniform anouncement, “and the patriotic love and appreciation that we all share for those who came before them.”
For a more in-depth look back at the Cowboys’ Bicentennial helmets, check out the retrospective piece from Cowboys Wire at this link. It was originally published on July 4, 2020 and excerpted briefly for this article.