If you remember that the NFL threatened to fine Peyton Manning for wearing high-top cleats to honor the late Johnny Unitas after Unitas passed away on Sept. 11, 2002, you know that the league takes its uniform rules very, very seriously. Manning was threatened with a $25,000 fine if he wore the cleats in a game because he had formally been denied permission to do so by the NFL. In the end, Manning took a pass, though Baltimore Ravens quarterback Chris Redman flew in the face of authority and got popped with a $5,000 fine for his trouble.
Related: 9/11 remembered 10 years later
It was a callous move by the NFL, but if what we're hearing about what players want to wear to honor the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is true, you haven't seen anything yet. According to the tweets of Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, the penalties for players wearing specific 9/11 tribute gear could be fairly steep.
"Reebok great job on these gloves and shoes..looks like I'm getting fined this week. Lol! By far the best fine I will ever have to pay. Thanks…Fines for gloves could be as much as 5k..the shoes 8-10k I think. not 100% on the shoe fine."
And here's Briggs' swag:
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles added his own thoughts:
"I Have some commemorative 9/11 gloves & cleats for the weekend game.. That #reebok made me. I never forget."
But wait -- there's more! Christy Cooley, the wife of Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, tweeted up the gear her husband got, which you can see just to the left.
The picture of the shoes at the top of this piece came from the Twitter account of Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. It's also worth noting that this is the last year of Reebok's 10-year contract with the NFL as the league's official outfitter; Nike will have that honor starting in 2012.
To add to the intrigue, we hear from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune that several Chargers players received the gear, and at least one player is ready to write a check for wearing it. The unnamed player said that he expected to be fined $5,000
"Players expressed confusion over why the NFL would deny them the chance to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by wearing different cleats when the league provides pink apparel (including shoes) to be worn by teams to promote breast cancer awareness each October."
According to Acee, the current plan is for sideline personnel to wear commemorative pins, and for players to wear a red, white, and blue patch below their jersey collars in a shape of a ribbon. League spokesman Greg Aiello told Acee that there are no plans to allow players to make unauthorized changes to their uniforms in tribute this Sunday, but if the Manning story we told you a bit earlier is any indication, we wouldn't bet on the NFL bending at all on this point.
The NFL is planning to honor the fallen with several different gameday events, and the NFL and NFLPA will donate $1 million to related charities and memorials. That's all very wonderful, but if the league is actually going to fine its own players for choosing to remember in their own way … isn't this the most glaring case for an exception to the uniform rule? None of the players choosing to wear this gear and take the automatic fine are looking to draw attention to themselves — this isn't a Hall of Fame jacket on the sideline or a Sharpie in the end zone.
These are players choosing to remember, and in the cases of Briggs, Hasselbeck, and many other NFL veterans, remember their own time in the NFL during and right after the attacks happened.
We haven't heard from the NFL either way on this, but the league would be very wise to step away from this issue, let the players wear the specific gear (the league can always pop those players looking to add to the authorized apparel with their own pieces of flair), and move on to something that won't be a PR nightmare.
It's a simple and honorable gesture. Not a fineable offense.
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