Let Them Speak

by Shaquira Speaks

The NFL seems to enjoy sending a bill to their players for not abiding by the rules according to the league’s code of conduct. Lately, it’s been for violating the uniform and equipment policy.


The latest player to have to reach into his pocket due to a fine is Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson wore cleats that had caution tape painted on them.

Photo taken by SI.com


In an interview with a reporter from ESPN, Jackson said that he wore the controversial cleats against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 to bring attention to “the senseless killings of both citizens and police.”

Originally, he was only going to wear them during pre-game warmups as to avoid the fine but decided his statement was important enough that it was worth the fine. He ended up being fined $6,076, according to ESPN.com.

Photo taken by ESPN

Another victim of the fines was Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. He was close to having to pay up for his recent disregard for the code of conduct.

Brown wore customized Nike cleats with a picture of Muhammad Ali on the side and “Float like a butterfly” written at the top of the shoe.

The star receiver laced them up during pregame warmups, but snuck them onto the playing field as well. The NFL’s front office caught on pretty quickly and had him change his shoes or get fined. He decided to take the shoes off.

This is not the first time that Brown has had customized shoes and tried to wear them during the game.


NFL Rulebook

These infractions go against the NFL’s uniform and equipment policy which states:

“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.”

The NFL elaborates that it will not allow players to convey messages “which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns.”

The NFL’s full rules for shoes under the uniform policy dictate that “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).”


The Voice

This only stifles a player’s ability to speak out on current social issues. Players like Antonio Brown and DeSean Jackson aren’t very vocal when it comes to things involving politics or the recent police shootings, so this is their way of “speaking out”. But the NFL says “No sir!”

However, the league allowed players to wear cleats commemorating 9/11. Six players were allowed to wear their shoes that honored the people who died and the New York Fire Department for their heroic service that day.

So what’s the difference from 9/11 and current issues, especially issues that affect your community or your family? Pittsburgh Steelers D’Angelo Williams, William Gay or Cameron Heyward all went against the code and supported diseases dealing with their family and were fined.

If the NFL continues to fine its employees for wearing different cleats or eye black, it will lose support and respect from not only its players but from fans as well. It will seem as though they don’t agree with other awareness months that affects players’ families, or other social and political issues that affect some player’s communities.

As for now, it seems as though the players are going to continue to go against the grain and disregard the policy.

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