The NFL is loosening up its stringent rules on footwear for one occasion this season. During Week 13, for the first time ever, the NFL will permit its players to wear alternate cleats that represent a charitable cause. The decision was made last month.
There are some catches, of course. The charitable organization must be approved by the league and the players have to auction them off afterward and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to that cause. But nonetheless, there's a lot of anticipation for this momentous opportunity for personal expression.
According to USA Today's Christine Brennan, 428 players have already signed up to participate. Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis says his cleats will feature the logo of his Defending Dreams Foundation, which works with underprivileged children.
"I think it's very important to look around the league and see all the good work that guys are doing that doesn't get enough attention," Davis said to USA Today. "Things that make news are when a guy gets in trouble. There are so many good things that never get out there, never get publicized. I know a lot of guys are excited to take part, whether you have your own charity or are honoring someone else's. It will be nice to see there will be a platform for the good things."
Previously, players have been disciplined for wearing cleats that highlight personal causes. Then-Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was docked $10,500 in 2013 for wearing green footwear that symbolizes mental health awareness and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay paid a $5,787 fine last year for sporting purple shoes to advocate for domestic violence awareness.
This year, with dozens of players following Colin Kaepernick and protesting during the national anthem, personal displays of expression are seen on the field every week. The league declined to fine any players who wore special cleats during 9/11, and last Sunday Washington wideout DeSean Jackson wore cleats with caution tape around them that were supposed to represent the acrimonious relationship between law enforcement and the black community –– though he's expected to face a fine.
NFL senior vice president of social responsibility Anna Isaacson told Brennan the Week 13 event had nothing to do with the anthem protests.