The NFL has long been regarded as an organization that helps support charities and underprivileged people, with the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the NFL’s Salute to Service, and most notably, the wearing of pink in the month of October to support Breast Cancer Awareness. On top of this, the NFL is introducing a new tradition to help support charities and causes either founded by players or already in existence.
The campaign is known as My Cause, My Cleats, and will take place in Week 13 of the NFL regular season. The campaign allows players around the league to wear cleats that feature a logo or saying of some sorts that belongs to a charity of their choice, and the colors on that cleat don’t need to align with the NFL’s usual strict uniform policy, which requires to wear either a white, black or team colored cleat.
“I love the fact that the NFL continues to come up with innovative ideas to help support the community,” senior Jeff Hawkins said. “This way the players get involved as well, allowing the charities to benefit off of their reach and their influence on people.”
For foundations such as CureDuchenne, an organization dedicated to help find a cure for a rare disease known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, having donations come in due to this can make an invaluable difference. According to CureDuchenne.org, the organization saw a large increase in donations to the cause last year due to Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews donning a pair of cleats sporting a CureDuchenne logo, alongside a video he posted on social media encouraging people to go donate to the cause.
“I think it’s a great idea, as long as the players in the league who wear these custom cleats don’t do it to simply look cool,” assistant football coach Tim Podulka said. “However, I think if those guys are supporting a charity, but they’re doing it as a way to look cool, it doesn’t really matter because the charity is still receiving publicity and advertising from these players.”
The idea of players taking advantage of this opportunity to simply look cool is not that uncommon, as last year during the original My Cause, My Cleats campaign, Eagles receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was fined $6,076 for wearing a pair of Kanye West Yeezy 350 cleats, cleats that do not comply with the NFL’s uniform policy.
Some fans, however, are calling for a permanent allowing of the custom cleats, meaning the cause would be recognized by the NFL for the entire length of the season.
“I do think the league should allow players to wear their custom cleats throughout the year,” senior Ronald Michel said. “People love when athletes are rocking their own style, and they support it even more when it’s for a charitable cause.”
The argument against it, however, is made by the NFL alongside some fans. Similar to how players are not allowed to wear pink outside of October and camouflage outside of November, the NFL wants to keep the exclusivity of Week 13 and have it synonymous with the cause.
“I think it’s good that the NFL is doing this for one week only,” Hawkins said. “If they allow it all year players might lose sight of the reason they’re allowing it in the first place, and the cause may get watered down.”
The custom cleat business is a rapidly growing market among NFL players, with many players swearing their allegiance to certain artists. Most notably among those artists is a man who goes by the name “Kickasso,” who actively works with players such as Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to create custom cleats for them to warm up in, often creating designs involving different pop culture icons or current events.
“I know some people don’t like the idea of these guys going all out on their cleats with crazy ideas, but I’m all for it. I’m a big believer in ‘look good, feel good, play good,’ ” said Michel. “If you’re comfortable with yourself out there, it can really give you a boost, almost like a competitive edge.”
Whether or not these cleats help the players perform well on the field, they are making a huge impact off the field. Last year, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott raised $4,510 for the American Cancer Society through his cleats that were auctioned off, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s cleats raised $4,036 for shelter animals and animals in need, and Jason Witten’s cleats were sold for $2,000 to help stop domestic violence.
“I think the NFL, as well as these players, are doing a great job to raise awareness using this wonderful platform they have,” Podulka said. “As for making their cleats look as attractive as possible, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. For the sake of the charities, the flashier the cleats, the more attention the charity is going to get.”