This past Sunday, the NFL relaxed their infamously tight uniform policy to allow an opportunity to offer some individual expression while raising awareness for causes near and dear to the players. The week 13 My Cause, My Cleats initiative permitted athletes to showcase charitable organizations, honor recently departed friends, or to bring awareness to maligned rappers, through unique cleat designs.
Several members of the Redskins took part in the campaign, sporting personalized footwear without the threat of being docked a portion of their game check. As a slightly obsessive student of athletics aesthetics, I was tremendously excited to see the league take the starch out their collective collars, and allow the players to show off some customized flair, if only just for one week out of the year.
Here’s a sampling of the custom kicks worn by Washington, and the reasons behind each athlete’s involvement with their cause as excerpted in part from The Players’ Tribune:
Kirk Cousins - International Justice Mission (IJM)
When I was in high school, I heard Gary Haugen (IJM's founder) speak at a church in my hometown. I was shocked by the stories he shared of violence & impunity against the poor worldwide. I was equally blown away by the work being done by IJM to bring light into this darkness. I knew right then that I wanted to get involved.
Pierre Garcon - The Pierre Garcon Helping Hands Foundation
Growing up, I was in a single-family with my single-mother and three older sisters. I didn't know much about sports. Someone helped me get my sports and academics right in order for me to be in the position that I am right now.
It was at the beginning of the season when I was seeing a lot of minorities and people of color losing their lives to police brutality. I just sat back and tried to figure out the best way I could support them and relay a message and symbol of unity. That's why I did the "Caution" cleats. It was really something I felt was a need and a problem in our society and community and the inner-cities. Instead of being silent I wanted to speak out and give my thoughts on how I felt. Those cleats were my way of bringing awareness to the killings and little kids losing their parents to police brutality.
Note: “WBJ” are the initials of Jackson’s late father. Jackson was previously fined $6,076 by the league for wearing his “caution tape” cleats to bring awareness to violence within communities in their Week 4 game vs. the Cleveland Browns.
Ryan Kerrigan (and Houston Bates)- Ryan Kerrigan's Blitz for the Better Foundation
Having a cousin that was autistic, I wanted to give back to people like my cousin. I wanted to help him and help my family members, and those who have an autistic family member in any way.
My dad passed away from cancer when I was young so any time I can give back to cancer relief or research is a big deal for me. It hit home for me when I was young, so I want to give back.
Vernon Davis - Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts
Growing up in D.C. it was tough to pursue the arts because people would make fun of you. They would criticize you. So when I got to college I felt like I was in a different environment where I could be free and do whatever it is that I wanted to do.
Josh Norman - Starz24
When I grew up, the things that are going on in my community weren't going on like they were then. There were a lot of activities in play and kids nowadays don't have that. All the gyms and everything are boarded up in that area and I just feel like it's my duty to give back to the kids in that area as much as I can.
Josh Norman's cleats support his organization benefiting underprivileged children in Greenwood, SC pic.twitter.com/W1sTs9u6HS— Athlete Swag (@AthleteSwag) December 4, 2016
Ricky Jean Francois - “Pray for Haiti” and Historically black colleges and universities
“I’m paying homage to all the black schools that helped us break the barrier to enter schools like Texas, to enter schools like Louisiana State University, to enter schools like the University of Florida,” Francois said. “If it wasn’t for those schools to help us get an education, it would be no way we’d be in these Big Tens or Pac-12s or SEC schools today.”
Dustin Hopkins - Fellowship of Christian Athletes & International Justice Mission
I got involved with FCA [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] being in athletics. With FCA, you have people not only to grow your faith with, but people that have been in your shoes who can help you. FCA allows me to be kind of discipled and mentored in the faith and that is something that is invaluable for me and a lot other people I know personally. The role this organization has played in my life as a man and Christ-follower is something that will always be with me. So that's an organization that I'll support for the rest of my life. I've been a camp counselor with them a couple of times and I've also been a camp-goer.
Other players represented causes on the afternoon including:
Chris Baker - The Chris Baker 92 Foundation
Growing up I struggled in school and I really didn't think reading and math were cool. I didn't really have any goals or aspirations to go to college until I found out I could go to college for free to play sports. So I had to buckle down in school. It was a lesson learned because if I had just done what I had to do from my freshman year all the way through high school it would have made my junior and senior year more enjoyable. But I had to really buckle down and grind and it was kind of stressful for me my junior and senior year because I didn't take school that importantly. Once I got into the NFL I always said that I would come back and give back to my community and encourage kids at an early age to really get into school. I want to get them into reading, writing, and math, so once they get into high school it will be an easy transition into college.
Will Compton - Team Jack Foundation
I got involved with Team Jack through the Nebraska football team while I was playing there. I got pretty close with the family and have continued that relationship throughout my career.
Jamison Crowder - The Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation
My great grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. That's why I support and give back to breast cancer research.
Morgan Moses - Morgan Moses Foundation
Coming out of high school I was highly recruited but fell short of the NCAA regulations. Because of that, I went to Fork Union Military Academy where I did a post-grad year there before I went to UVA. It was probably the most important transition in my life going from high school to Fork Union because it allowed me to learn skills like time-management and how to study, which are important skills that you need in your every day life.
Greg Toler - CETA Foundation
CETA is about building stronger communities and changing lives for kids. My brother Steve Baggs, he's actually my ex-teammate but he's like a mentor and brother to me, he's one of the first founders of the foundation and I got into it with him. I got into it with him in Arizona and from then on we've been holding symposium camps and different events for kids.
The results were certainly quite visually stunning and served as a nice change of pace to the strict uniformity of the NFL. For a look around the league at all the designs on display this weekend, check out The Players’ Tribune “My Cause, My Cleats” page and this video of Ryan Kerrigan, Pierre Garcon, and Vernon Davis meeting the artists who designed their cleats.
What did you think about the Redskins’ footwear this weekend? Who had your favorite designs? Let us know in the comments below!