The statue of Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas, stands a mighty 67 feet tall. It’s one of the tallest in the United States, just six inches shorter than the giraffe sculpture at the Dallas Zoo and a foot shorter than the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Ol’ Sam is, alas, less than half the height of the Statue of Liberty.) The Huntsville monument is named “A Tribute To Courage,” and it has towered over motorists heading north on Interstate 45 for the past thirty years. 

Normally, the graven image of the first president of the Republic of Texas is dressed formally, in a cravat, waistcoat, and jacket, gazing over the state whose independence he helped secure while resting his right hand on a cane. In late April, though, the statue got something of a makeover—a bold new Houston Texans “color rush”-style jersey emblazoned with the number 24 and the name “Houston,” identifying both the team’s hometown and the last name of the concrete giant it adorns. The jersey was created by STI Graphics, a custom printing shop in the Houston suburb of Tomball. Built from 330 square yards of material, the garment weighs nearly two hundred pounds. Two construction cranes were used to dress the statue in the jersey. 

The glow-up has not been without controversy. On the Facebook page for The Huntsville Item, a newspaper that’s been covering Walker County since 1850, locals have debated whether dressing the Texas revolutionary in a football jersey is appropriate. In true Facebook fashion, the arguments haven’t always been polite or perfectly argued, but dozens of locals have nonetheless weighed in that they find the garment “disrespectful.” Some reasoned that Houston would not cheer for the team from the city named after him because of Texans players who kneeled during the National Anthem; others contended that if Sam were around today, he’d be a Cowboys fan. Perhaps hoping to avoid controversy, the City of Huntsville’s official Facebook page disabled comments when it shared photos of the jersey-clad historical figure.

One can debate whether Houston would have rooted for the Texans. (During the nineties, we assume he’d have been swept up in Cowboys fever.) But the tradition of dressing famous landmarks and historical monuments in sports jerseys certainly predates Huntsville’s decision to participate in an NFL jersey reveal promotion.  

In Boston, where the streets are littered with public art tributes to great Americans, sports fandom and history often overlap. When World Series hype swept the city in 2013, the sculpture of Paul Revere on Hanover Street wore a Red Sox jersey. The statue of Sam Adams—an original patriot, if you will—greeted visitors of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum in 2015 while wearing a Tom Brady jersey and a beanie adorned with the New England Patriots logo and a jaunty pom-pom on top. Indeed, the same week Sam Houston got his Texans jersey, the statue of George Washington on horseback in Boston’s Public Garden was fitted in a Boston Bruins jersey to cheer on the team’s NHL playoff run. If putting a Texans jersey on Sam Houston is disrespectful, how much worse is it to gussy up His Excellency in honor of what we’ve been reliably informed is a team that plays a game called hockey? 

Sports fandom inspires such enthusiasm, though, and dressing up a statue in a jersey is cute. In Chicago, the city’s famed Art Institute is flanked on both sides by fierce-looking stone lions. During the rare occurrence of a Chicago sports team competing for a championship, those lions are fitted with jerseys, ball caps, or helmets to show their support. (Most recently, they got festive in 2021 to cheer on the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, who did indeed bring home a title.) In the city’s South Side, the statues of legendary White Sox players were dressed in United States Women’s National Team soccer jerseys ahead of the 2019 World Cup

And so on, and so on. In Las Vegas, the fake Statue of Liberty outside of the New York, New York resort and casino got a Raiders jersey to celebrate the city’s poaching of the NFL franchise from Oakland. In Philly, the Rocky Balboa statue on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art wore a Jalen Hurts jersey last year for the Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl. (Notably, the William Penn statue at Liberty Place One does not wear a jersey when a Philly team is in the playoff hunt—not because it disrespects the state’s founder, but because doing so is believed to place a curse on the team!) The practice continues internationally; in the Philippines, during annual Santo Niño festivals throughout the country, statues of the child saint sometimes get NBA and other basketball jerseys

So, if it is indeed disrespectful to dress Sam Houston in a giant Texans jersey, then he’s in exquisite company among the disrespected. Rather than get upset about the oversized pinnie, we’d recommend a little bit of old fashioned Texas pride: Instead of lamenting that he’s been conscripted into Texans fandom, let’s acknowledge that the statue of Sam Houston is by far the largest statue to ever be dressed up in an American sports jersey. We suspect that even the Raven himself would take some satisfaction in that.