Since 2016, the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign has allowed players to break free of its strict uniform rules to display charitable causes on their cleats during Week 13. This merging of humanity and individuality is a departure from a ridiculous uniform fine schedule that last year penalized Saints RB Alvin Kamara $5,000 for taking the field with red and green cleats … on Christmas Day!
By all accounts, the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign is a lovely burst of altruism that give players the chance to talk about the causes nearest and dearest to their heart. Most of these causes come with person connection. For example, Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon wore two separate cleats: one for the American Cancer Association to honor his mother’s recent fight against breast cancer and the other for the International Justice Mission after Judon’s wife educated him on the rampant issue of sex trafficking. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts chose to represent the Women’s Sports Foundation to empower in sports and beyond, a cause ingrained in him from his mother who is a counselor.
We learned about numerous causes during Week 13 and saw incredible artistry in cleat design which only gets splashier by the season. But there were also hundreds of players wearing cleats whose causes we didn’t get to learn about. Those players deserve the same platform that their teammates, who may hold bigger name value or have more impressive stats, are receiving. Thus lies the problem with My Cause My Cleats in its current form. It’s a overwhelming exercise with sideline reporters and team writers powering through so many causes in a sliver of time that it’s hard to keep them straight. It’s time for expansion.
Ever since Roger Goodell issued an apology for not listening to Colin Kaepernick and other players who were emphatically waving their hands trying to tell the story of what its like to be Black in America, the NFL has promoted its commitment to social change. While the league has donated hefty sums to the Players’ Coalition and allowed players to showcase their causes in Week 13, there are still 17 weeks (plus the pre- and postseason) where players have to follow strict edits about appearance or be fined.
My Cause My Cleat deserves to be a season-long campaign. There are several ways to orchestrate a wider campaign.
My choice would be featuring players wearing these cause-driven cleats during prime time. Every team has a prime-time game – yes, Thursday night counts – so use the broadcast to truly focus in on the charities. Tell the stories in and out of breaks. Instead of players saying their name and college in the introductions, make it their name, their charity, and one line about what or who it aids. Run a concurrent social media campaign where the teams involved are sharing the stories and charities throughout the games and with the NFL accounts boosting for higher visibility.
Given the frenetic way so any of us watch football – flipping every five seconds, watching Red Zone – capturing the national audience is far and away the most productive way to give these players and their causes the attention they deserve.
But the league could also divvy it up and have My Cause My Cleats by division on different weeks or feature two teams a week. They could also produce a My Cleats My Cause special on NFL Network with athletes partaking and fans having access to links and numbers to make donations.
Enacting My Cause My Cleats is a very positive first step for the NFL and a week the players cherish. But it’s time for more.