Tennessee Titans linebacker, Avery Williamson, made the brave decision to wear custom patriotic cleats for the team’s season opener against the Vikings on Sunday, September 11th in remembrance of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, despite the NFL’s threats to fine him.
While Williamson sought to uphold a positive standard, other members of the NFL have done just the opposite. Following Colin Kaepernick’s stunt which involved him refusing to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” in several preseason games, other players have emulated Kaepernick in various forms of protest . Brandon Marshall, linebacker for the Denver Broncos, purposefully kneeled during the national anthem before Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers, and despite all of this negative attention, the NFL still has the audacity to threaten to fine Williamson for his actions.
Despite those threats, Titans head coach, Mike Mularkey, chose to stand behind his player in his decision to wear patriotic cleats, stating:
“If you don’t wear those shoes, I’ll be very disappointed in you. Because all I want from you guys is to do things the right way, [a]nd him wearing those shoes is doing something the right way.”
The coach went so far as to say that if his player is in fact fined by the NFL, he will cover the price.
Williamson had intended to wear the cleats to honor those who had lost their lives in the nation’s 2001 terrorist attacks, but when the NFL threatened the fine due to uniform code violations, he decided he did not want to cause a stir. But then his teammates encouraged him to follow through and offered to help fund any fines. Four police associations also followed suit, including the unit that patrols the World Trade Center, so Williamson felt he had no choice. After the Titans’ game on Sunday, he said:
“I just felt like I got so much support across the country, and especially when the New York and New Jersey police unions said that they would pay my fine, that really meant a lot, [s]o I felt like if I didn’t wear them, I just wouldn’t have felt good about it. I felt like I had to do that, just for myself and to represent the people that were lost and the people that do their jobs every day to protect us. I feel like it was just a duty.”
Given the controversies stemming from other players and questionable decisions recently, the NFL should actually welcome a positive story like Avery Williamson. Back in March, the league threatened to take away Atlanta’s bid to host the Super Bowl if Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, passed a bill to protect religious freedom. The NFL also has a very liberal record of supporting groups like GLAAD and GLSEN that advocate against traditional marriage. You can see more on where the NFL stands on all the issues here.
In addition to proudly wearing the shoes during the game, Williamson has decided to auction off his cleats to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, offer two VIP tickets, an autographed jersey and attend a meet and greet.
It’s a shame to see the NFL, for all the cultural influence it wields in America, threatening a player’s patriotic gesture, while so many others use the league as a platform for protest.