The NFL will remember 9/11 with tributes this Sunday, but one player’s patriotic gesture has earned a penalty flag from the league.
Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson earlier in the week said he would wear specially-designed patriotic cleats when he lined up against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The special red, white and blue cleats include stars, an American flag-inspired Nike logo and the words “Never Forget” printed on the heel, according to photographs posted on Williamson’s verified Twitter account.
But that would violate NFL rules, which stipulate each player’s shoes must be either black or white, with team colors serving as allowable dominant or secondary colors on the shoes.
The NFL rule book says unapproved shoes are allowable only if “the player tapes over the entire shoe to conform to his team’s selected dominant base color.”
Fearing a fine from the league, and leery of becoming a distraction, Williamson said he decided to auction the cleats for charity.
“I want to wear them. Would love to represent and show respect to my country in them, but I also respect my affiliation,” Williamson said in an email to CNN.
Police groups back player
Proceeds of the auction will benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, a nonprofit that gives veterans and their families the chance to attend sporting events. The current bid for the cleats is $4,350, according to the site conducting the auction.
Two law enforcement groups quickly came out in support of Williamson.
“We want him to wear the cleats and we’ll pay the fine,” Patrick Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement. “He was absolutely doing a great thing and the NFL is threatening with a fine? When is (NFL Commissioner Roger) Goodell going to recognize what his fan base is?”
Port Authority Police Benevolent Association president Paul Nunziato also offered to pay the fine.
He was outraged by Williamson’s plight, given the league’s silence on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to wear socks in practice that depict police officers as pigs.
“You have to wonder, when the NFL allows a player to wear socks depicting cops as pigs but won’t allow another player to honor those murdered on 9/11, is NFL Football still America’s game?” Nunziato said.