Scores of NFL players, and even some coaches, are taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight charities and causes they champion this week, with the return of “My Cause, My Cleats.”
Normally, the NFL tightly regulates all manner of players’ uniforms, including the color of the cleats they wear once the game kicks off. Some players will have custom shoes made and wear them during warmups, but in-game, they must fall in line or receive a warning for a first uniform offense and fines for subsequent ones.
When the league began its breast cancer awareness campaign in October, players were allowed to wear bright pink cleats, gloves and other accessories as part of the month-long operation.
But some, like running back DeAngelo Williams, who lost several members of his family to breast cancer including his mother, wanted to wear pink all season, and still others wanted the freedom to wear other colors to represent different causes.
The NFL heard them, with “My Cause, My Cleats” introduced last year.
The cleats run the gamut (players must submit paperwork describing their cause), and there’s not enough time to highlight every one here. But here are a few; you can search #MyCauseMyCleats on Twitter to see more.
DT Lawrence Guy, New England
Guy has perhaps the most touching cleats. They are in support of pregnancy loss, and he shares that he and his wife lost a baby when his wife was five months pregnant (two other NFL players, Buffalo’s Logan Thomas and the 49ers’ Marquise Goodwin, experienced the pregnancy loss this season). Guy writes that he realized there’s a “strong stigma” around pregnancy loss and wanted families who experience it to know there are resources to help the grieving process.
DE Kerry Wynn, New York Giants
Wynn had students from his hometown of Louisa, Va. design his cleats. They send a message of anti-bullying. He is not the only player who will bring attention to wanting to get rid of bullying in kids and teens – Green Bay’s Mike Daniels’ shoes declare, “Be a Hero, Not a Bully,” and Dallas’ Tyrone Crawford promoted the cause on the shoes he wore Thursday night.
DT Brandon Williams, Baltimore
Williams’ light blue high-top cleats offered a lot of real estate for bright-blue graphics to share images representing the Boys & Girls Clubs. They have the BGC logo, small handprints and “Westport Homes,” the name of the Baltimore-area club where he gives much of his time. Even better, Williams will have 10 kids from the club who “crushed” their grades this semester as his guests when the Ravens host Detroit.
P Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams
Hekker is one of several players active in the Waterboys organization, started by the Eagles’ Chris Long to bring much-needed well water to communities in East Africa. Hekker’s colorful cleats, with yellow, pink, blue and green as well as the flag of Tanzania, were designed by a boy from the country who has access to clean water thanks to Waterboys. Long is also wearing Waterboys cleats.
DE Michael Bennett, Seattle
Bennett is one of a handful of players still protesting inequality and injustice during the national anthem, which has drawn unfounded criticism from some as being a slap at military members. Bennett and others have said repeatedly that is not the case, and to underscore that, his cleats are dedicated to families of POWs and MIAs. The shoes say, “You are not forgotten.”
QB Drew Stanton, Arizona
Stanton’s purple and teal cleats were designed by kids at Phoenix’s Sojourner Center, which is a haven for abused women and children in the city for 40 years. Dallas’ Jason Witten represented his SCORE foundation, which also works to end domestic violence, on Thursday night.
Bill Belichick, New England
Even Belichick is taking part. His sideline shoes made to look like a football but also featuring the logo of his eponymous foundation, which provides equipment grants and coaching and mentorship help to youth sports organizations. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s shoes, which apparently glow in the dark, say, “We Stick Together,” and Carolina’s Ron Rivera will honor his brother and father, who served in the military.