By Barry Janoff
Originally Published At MediaPost
November 29, 2016: The NFL, which like most pro sports leagues has strict rules on player uniforms, cleats and on-field attire, this week is bending its own rules for a multitude of good causes.
For all games during Week 13 — beginning with the Dallas Cowboys at the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football (NBC, NFL Network, Twitter) — some 500 NFL players will be able to wear cleats that they each have designed to support specific charities, events, people and causes, under the umbrella "My Cause, My Cleats" platform.
The focus of respective messaging includes raising awareness about cancer, birth defects, mental health, diabetes, bullying, lack of water in East African communities, pet adoption and improving education to kids nationwide.
The league, NFL Players Assn. and the players worked with NFL partners Nike, adidas and Under Armor to create the plethora of shoes.
"These will be seen on nationally televised games, so it will bring so much attention to so many causes," said Alfred Morris, running back for the Cowboys, whose cleats will support The Salvation Army. "This is the first year we are doing this. Even if you are not involved with a cause, we want people to relate to them and get actively involved."
Following the games, the league said each player would have the opportunity to raise funds for their respective cause by auctioning their cleats at NFL Auction. All of the funds raised will be donated to the designated charities, which must have 501c3 status, according to the NFL.
A "My Cause, My Cleats"-themed TV spot broke this week as part of the NFL’s on-going Football is Family effort, with the tag line, "Every Cleat Tells A Story." It shows wide receiver Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets designing his cleats along with kids from his Project 375 foundation, which focuses on promoting awareness of mental health.
In addition to on-air visuals and mentions during broadcast games, support includes a dedicated Web site, social media and a online player platform in partnership with The Players’ Tribune.
The initiative is a culmination of 18 months of collaborative work between the NFL and its players.
"One of the great NFL traditions is how our players passionately support important causes in their communities and around the globe every year," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during a media event.
"They are incredibly creative by nature so we are not surprised how they are seizing the opportunity this week with inspiring expressions of their charitable commitments on their cleats, online and through social media."
Some players have joined together to support a specific cause.
Five players, led by New England Patriots defensive end Chris Long, will wear cleats to support Waterboys, an initiative that sends "desperately needed clean water" to communities in East Africa.
Several players will wear Rise to Win gold cleats with the message, "Sideline Racism," to support the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, including Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Tyrann Mathieu (Arizona Cardinals), Derrick Morgan (Tennessee Titans) and Jelani Jenkins (Miami Dolphins).
Among the various individual messages:
• Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, will be wearing gold cleats featuring Brees Dream, his foundation that works to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families.
• Kyle Rudolph, tight end for the Vikings, will don purple cleats to support the kids and families at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
• Kirk Cousins, quarterback for the Washington Redskins, will support the International Justice Mission, a non-profit group that works to protect people worldwide from such situations as human trafficking, slavery and sexual assault.
• Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry will use his cleats to focus on his battle with cancer and to help raise awareness for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
• Cardinals running back David Johnson is spotlighting his being bullied as a kid and his work with STOMP Out Bullying to help others going through the same experience.
• Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is highlighting his Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation.
• Jarvis Landry, wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, will wear shoes to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
• Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will raise awareness for the Blake Bortles Foundation, which supports kids with intellectual and developmental challenges.
• Von Miller, linebacker for the defending Super Bowl champ Denver Broncos, has “eye charts” on his cleats support Von’s Vision, his non-profit group that gives glasses to children in need.