Apparently the NFL doesn't have a problem with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting out the national anthem to protest America's white supremacy, but wear a pair of cleats that honor a player's memory of the 9/11 terrorist attack and the NFL will come down on you like a hammer.
According to The Tennessean, Titans starting linebacker Avery Williamson had planned to wear custom patriotic cleats during his team's home opener against the Vikings this Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attack. He had custom-made star-spangled blue cleats with red-and-white-striped Nike swooshes airbrushed by True Blue Customs in Lexington, Ky. They feature the slogan “Never Forget” and “9/11” on the back of each shoe, with the "11" representing the Twin Towers.
But a league representative called to inform him that there would be a fine for violating uniform code. The NFL mandates that all teammates wear the same color scheme on their shoes.
Williamson told The Tennessean on Friday,
“I don’t want to draw negative attention, so I’m just going to focus on playing the game. Once I heard from them, I didn’t even try to argue anything. I just left it alone. I didn’t want to press the issue.”
Instead, he is now auctioning the cleats to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, plus offering a meet-and-greet, two VIP tickets to a Titans home game, and an autographed jersey.
“I’m going to try to get a couple of veterans to come to a game,” Williamson said. “I feel like just reaching out to people, helping them, somebody that’s served our country, I feel like that’s a great honor, so I wanted to do something nice for them. I feel like it’s a great cause.”
This isn't the first time the NFL has cracked down about the uniform code. In August, the league prohibited the Dallas Cowboys from wearing a helmet sticker honoring local police. Last season, the NFL fined two Pittsburgh Steelers players, one for wearing "Find the Cure" in his eye blacking to promote breast cancer awareness, and one for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness about domestic violence.
The New York Giants' Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz too plan to wear patriotic cleats in Sunday's game against the Cowboys.
About Kaepernick, Williamson has said,
“I guess if he wants to stand up for something, he can, because everybody has a voice. If that’s the way he wants to express himself, that’s the way he’s doing it. It’s his decision. And I just wish him luck with it.
“It can be used for good or bad, either or, but you definitely have a bigger platform than you think.”
Titans teammates had encouraged Williamson to wear the 9/11 shoes anyway, and have offered to chip in to help pay the fine. But Williamson said, “I got some shoes I got done exactly like the cleats, so I’m just going to wear them to the game.”