The NFL’s “My Cleats, My Cause” initiative begins this week, and players across the league are sporting a range of decorated cleats designed to bring interest to their own causes … or, as it turns out, to someone else’s.
“I dont have a foundation,” Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews wrote on Instagram, “so i have chosen to support my brother @kaepernick7 foundation @yourrightscamp for #MyCauseMyCleats He has paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring true everyday issues to light. Please follow the page & go to the website to learn more. We Should ALL Know Our Rights & Be Able to Express Them Freely.”
Matthews, of course, is referring to Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose protests at the start of the 2016 season kicked off a nationwide debate that reached from living rooms to the White House. Since Kaepernick’s protest, intended to protest systemic racism and police brutality, hundreds of NFL players have knelt during the national anthem. Opponents of the protests have called them unpatriotic, disrespectful and poorly timed.
Matthews, for his part, had said that he would quit the league before being forced to stand during the anthem—supporters of the protests note that the right to express one’s opinion, even an unpopular one, is a bedrock principle of America—but later relented, and marched into a recent game alongside a member of the military.
The “ultimate sacrifice” line is a bit over the top—Kaepernick’s not dead, just out of work—but it’s obvious by this point that Kaepernick’s very public protest during the national anthem has caused teams to shy away from signing him, rather than weaker but less controversial quarterbacks.
Players can adopt any cause for the cleats initiative, and many more politically oriented cleats are likely forthcoming.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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