For NFL players, expression in the form of creative cleat design is typically prohibited. Players who maintain traditions of expressive art on their feet during pregame warmups are well known, but they must have all “personal messages” approved by the league beforehand. And they’re required to ditch the fun for the formality of team color-designated cleats before they it the field for game time.
But not in Week 14, when the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign is in effect.
The campaign, now in its fourth year, allows players to represent charitable causes of their choice with pre-approved custom cleat designs to wear during games. According to the NFL, more than 900 players are planning to showcase their causes this year.
Below is everything you need to know about the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign, including a list of causes players on each team are representing.
What is My Cause, My Cleats?
Immediately after the first My Cause, My Cleats campaign in 2016, the NFL looked to build on its success. Hence its return in every season since.
Per the NFL, the topics players selected in 2019 represent hundreds of different charitable organizations. Out of the total, 24 percent of participating players will represent causes related to health and wellness, 18 percent place emphasis on cancer awareness and prevention, while 17 percent of player causes were youth-focused.
Players also have the opportunity to raise funds for the causes of their choosing by auctioning their cleats at NFL Auction; 100 percent of funds raised will be donated to charities selected by players. Fans may bid on game-issued player cleats at NFL.com/Auction and help players raise funds for their chosen causes.
“The positive influence of NFL players extends far beyond the field, a time of year, or the game itself,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement about this year’s campaign. “What makes ‘My Cause My Cleats’ so special, is that it provides players with an opportunity to bring attention to — and raise awareness and money for — the causes that are closest to their hearts.
“The fact that more than half of the players in the league are participating this year underscores the tremendous passion they have for giving back.”
What are the rules for My Cause, My Cleats?
For games during Week 14, players will wear customized cleats reflecting their commitment to charitable causes during their games.
The causes, of course, were approved by the NFL.
Who designs the NFL’s custom cleats?
NFL players play a big role in the cleat designs, starting with the selection of their causes and including input in logo usage, color scheme, arrangement, etc. (The amount of input in the design is case-by-case and up to the players.)
Players and teams worked directly with local customizers, as well as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, to design their cleats.
This year, the NFL collaborated with The Shoe Surgeon to design the cleats of Rams running back Todd Gurley, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Gurley’s cleats will highlight his foundation, the M.A.D.E Sports Foundation; Prescott will support his own Faith, Fight, Finish Foundation; Rodgers will wear cleats in support of the North Valley Community Foundation.
“It was amazing to collaborate with NFL on the ‘My Cause My Cleat’ campaign this year,” said Dominic Ciambrone, aka The Shoe Surgeon, “and to work with each of the players to bring their visions to life and drive awareness to these significant causes through the designs and details of the cleats.”
Last year, Joe Ventura of Joe V Designs in Ludlow, Mass., was featured on Westernmassnews.com as one of the local cleat customizers; a video provides an example of the air-brushing technique used by the artists to paint the cleats.
What are the rules for cleats in the NFL?
When the My Cause, My Cleats campaign is not in effect, the following rules are in place, straight from the NFL’s rule book:
“Shoes must be of standard football design, including ‘sneaker’ type shoes such as basketball shoes, cross-training shoes, etc. Each team must designate a dominant base color for its shoes, either black or white (with shoelace color conforming to the dominant base color of the tongue area of the shoe). Each team must also designate one of its constitutional uniform colors as a dominant team color for its shoes. Each team must also designate one of its constitutional uniform colors as a secondary team color for its shoes. Each team may also designate a third uniform color as a tertiary team color that may be used for accents on its shoes.
“The designation of team shoe colors as described above must be reported by each team to the league office no later than July 1 each year. Each player may select among shoe styles previously approved by the league office.
“All players on the same team must wear shoes with the same dominant base color. A player may wear an unapproved standard football shoe style as long as the player tapes over the entire shoe to conform to his team’s selected dominant base color (i.e., white or black). Logos, names, or other commercial identification on shoes are not permitted to be visible unless advance approval is granted by the league office. Size and location of logos and names on shoes must be approved by the league office. When a shoe logo or name approved by the league is covered with an appropriate use of tape, players will be allowed to cut out the tape covering the original logo or name, provided the cut is clean and is the exact size of the logo or name. The logo or name of the shoe manufacturer must not be re-applied to the exterior of taped shoes unless advance approval is granted by the league office.
“Kicking shoes must not be modified (including using a shoelace wrapped around toe and/or bottom of the shoe), and any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe. Punters and placekickers may omit the shoe from the kicking foot in preparation for and during kicking plays. Punters and placekickers may wear any combination of the tri-colored shoes provided that the colors are consistent with those selected by the team and with the policy listed above.”
In addition, the following are the NFL’s typical restrictions on personal messages:
“Throughout the period on gameday that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the league office. Items to celebrate anniversaries or memorable events, or to honor or commemorate individuals, such as helmet decals, and arm bands and jersey patches on players’ uniforms, are prohibited unless approved in advance by the league office.
“All such items approved by the league office, if any, must relate to team or league events or personages. The league will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display, or otherwise convey messages, through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches, or other items affixed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns.
“Further, any such approved items must be modest in size, tasteful, non-commercial, and non-controversial; must not be worn for more than one football season; and if approved for use by a specific team, must not be worn by players on other teams in the league.”