It started as a simple way for players to tell their story last season, one which drew the ire of the NFL as a uniform violation, but one which has grown to be much more of a platform as players continue to find more of a social voice and express themselves in a positive and unifying manner for reasons beyond the game.
So last week, the NFL again allowed hundreds of players to use their cleats as a form of expression for charitable causes as part of #MyCauseMyCleats. Almost every team had players participate for charities and as a call to action big and small. Some pushed their own foundation; others looked to bigger causes like social injustice and mental health. In all, by being out in front and proactive with the players for this week, the league and the players continue to unlock a best practice that can be replicated throughout sport as a mosaic of social good. Given some of the divisiveness around player expression this season, (although the NFL has the creative end zone celebrations to continue and expand across the social spectrum) the campaign was another opportunity for players to give time and effort on a national stage for the events and the people they support.
The picture gallery form those past weekend was quite the mosaic, as a host of players worked hard to gain visibility with a number of colors and styles, some working closely with the shoe companies to drive optimal exposure. Those with a well-orchestrated social media campaign and footprint did even better to the call to action, and the team and league support for the initiative drove much more media attention than a one off effort by a player with mixed results. The biggest impact was when athletes worked together, as happened with the Ravens and others, and those causes who were involved help amplify the message.
At its generic best the opportunity again showed how a league can stray from the uniformity of uniforms and put charity on the forefront. While there cannot be abuse or even control by the sneaker companies, the ability to drive awareness for causes and the dedication of athlete’s shows that there is more than a one off opportunity here and this is something that could gain ground across sports and around the world as a call to action for issues big and small.
While not as extensive as MLB’s Players Weekend last August, which was more uniform (no pun intended) and more light hearted, #MyCauseMyCleats was a call to cause, with each player given their chance to share a story with the shoes. Its impact, especially in a season where social activation has become a lightning rod for controversy, should not be understated, and its value is probably still growing with subsequent actions and other fundraising events tied to the shoes.
Even with the issues the NFL is facing today with regard to social activism, it is hard to see how #MyCauseMyCleats was not a success, and all should continue to watch for the future, with an expanded toehold on driving awareness in a very controlled environment. With the sneakerhead culture still roaring along, one would think there is an NBA and NCAA play here soon as well, maybe around All-Star.
Regardless, while the NFL has been more than a bit of a piñata this fall. Credit should go where credit is due, and giving players the chance to do theirs with their kicks is more than worthwhile.