The National Football League avoided a potential public relations nightmare, and more importantly, did what was widely considered to be the right thing, announcing Friday that players may wear special shoes and gloves that differ from official NFL equipment for Week 1 games. The move came a day after Lance Briggs, six-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Chicago Bears, sent out a picture of shoes and gloves provided by Reebok to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. He then tweeted:
“Reebok great job on these gloves and shoes… looks like I'm getting fined this week. Lol!”
But the league, which normally enforces a very rigid uniform policy, said they do not “anticipate any issues”. The AP reported that Greg Aiello, spokesman for the NFL, sent an e-mail stating that, “We have extensive plans for Sunday to respectfully recognize the significance of the day.”
He added that, “Lance Briggs and all players will participate.”
After finishing up practice on Friday, Briggs declined to comment. He did issue a statement to me later in the evening which read:
“Thank you to the NFL for letting us go out on Sunday and honor those lives that were lost in 9-11, the servicemen who have lost their lives to protect our country and those soldiers who continue to do so.”
The gloves and cleats (which can be seen below) are a striking vision of the American flag, sporting colors of red, white, and blue, numerous stars, the date, 9.11.2011, and the words ‘Never Forget’.
Briggs, who was advised of the possible fine by Reebok, had anticipated that he could be paying as much as $5,000 for the gloves and $10,000 for the shoes. Those numbers might have been on the low end considering league history, however. ESPN has reported that two seasons ago, former Bengals wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco was fined $10,000 for nothing more than a chin strap violoation. Prior to that, the NFL threated to fine quarterback Peyton Manning $25,000 for a uniform tribute to the late Johnny Unitas.
Several other players had expressed their intent to wear 9/11 gear on Sunday, including Kansas City Chiefs running back, Jamaal Charles, five-time Pro Bowl receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, Reggie Wayne, Pro Bowl safety, Antoine Bethea, along with several other players on the San Diego Chargers.
Briggs and Wayne both indicated prior to the league announcement that this would be the “best fine” they had ever paid.
Wayne went into further detail saying, “That’s an important time in our life… I’m going to wear it, and wear it proudly.”
Charles sums up the importance of players being able to express their own personal tribute on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.
“I never forget”, he tweeted.
The NFL, to their credit, has no intentions of forgetting either. Despite the flap over the tribute gear, the league had already announced that all players on Sunday will have a patch on their jerseys featuring a ribbon with stars and stripes along with the dates "9/11/01" and "9/11/11." In addition, coaches, personnel and staff will have pins featuring a similar ribbon.
But the NFL was right in getting this issue resolved prior to game day. Now there will be no controversy to concern players or fans on Sunday. Football will be played, the fallen will be remembered, and our servicemen and women will be honored.
What could be a better tribute than that?
Rusty can be contacted via Twitter @rustyweiss74
Photo Courtesy of Lance Briggs @55berger
Photo Courtesy of Jamaal Charles @jcharles25