The National Football League (NFL) is arguably the biggest sports league in the United States. Football as a sport is big in America, and it ticks all the boxes for most Americans. Football enjoys immense popularity amongst Americans, and the coverage is massive.
The Super Bowl, the culmination of hostilities amongst NFL teams across the two conferences, is the most-watched sporting event in the United States. For context, the Super Bowl is only second to the UEFA Champions League final for viewership. Such is the popularity of the NFL within the borders of the United States.
Uniform Restrictions and Criticisms
Despite the success of the league, the NFL has been criticized for restricting players from expressing themselves or their opinions while out on the field. The NFL has a tough stance on uniforms, especially the cleats players wear. Both the uniform and the cleats have strict regulations and guidelines.
Unlike the National Basketball Association (NBA) where players can wear sneakers or shoes of their choice, the NFL is very uptight about cleats. Players have to adhere strictly to the color code for cleats or risk being heavily sanctioned.
Many players have passions that extend beyond the white lines of football fields but they are met with stiff resistance when they leverage their status as sports stars to pass important messages on the field of play.
For many years, there have been calls for the NFL to relax the rules banning players from wearing flamboyant cleats for NFL matches. Over the years, many players have been sanctioned for offenses bordering on not conforming to the strict uniform rules.
Notable Fines and Controversies
In 2016, a few players were fined for breaking the uniform rule. The NFL fined Deandre Hopkins a hefty $6,000 for spotting Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 cleats during the opening game of the Houston Texan. Odel Beckham Jr. was fined a staggering $18,000 for wearing cleats in honor of the late Craig Sager who was popular for his work as a sports reporter.
In the same year, Antonio Brown was fined many times for violating the rules on cleats. Brown also received warnings and was threatened with being benched by the NFL for wearing cleats dedicated to Muhammad Ali.
The NFL’s Steps Towards Relaxation
Although the NFL had allowed players to wear customized cleats for charity reasons in week 13 of the same season, there was no letting off for both Beckham and Brown. Following that, there were loads of criticism for the league and what came after the season was a decision to relax some of the existing rules on uniform at the time.
In 2017, the NFL announced that players would be allowed to wear customized cleats before matches and during the warm-up. The league also took a step further by toning down the restrictions on the color of cleats players wear during games.
Before the change, players were only allowed to wear cleats matching the colors their team chose. But the rule change meant that players could wear black, and white the primary or secondary uniform color as their cleats.
Remaining Restrictions and Guidelines
Despite their move to ease some of these restrictions, there were still some, players still had a lot of pitfalls to be wary of. For example, pregame cleats can’t have or display any kind of logo aside from Adidas, Nike, or UnderAmour.
The cleats can be seen to portray offensive messages. Similarly, players can not use cleats to convey political messages or leanings. Even when the NFL makes an exemption for players to wear customized cleats, they are usually very strict with the guidelines.
In November 2018, Cincinnati defensive end, Michael Johnson was fined $6,000 for wearing his Vietnam Veteran cleats twice in the same month.
The NFL had announced that players could wear customized cleats during the Bengal’s ‘Salute to the Service’ game. Johnson wore it after the game and that didn’t sit well with the league.
Recent Cases and Veteran Players’ Opinions
Before the more recent cases, NFL stars have paid heavy fines for uniform infractions. In 2011, Marshawn Lynch was famously fined twice in one month for two separate uniform infractions.
Firstly, he was fined $5,000 for donning lime green socks on Monday Night Football. Before he was hit with a much bigger fine of $10,000 for wearing cleats with a Skittles design.
Now that his active playing days are long over, he has been one of the most vocal critics of the league over what has been described as the restrictive rules on cleats. The BetMGM Ambassador is not a fan of the restrictive nature of the league and he has been outspoken about the NFL, particularly on the issue of NFL cleats.
These days when Lynch is not campaigning for a more accommodating league, he is promoting BetMGM, a sportsbook with one of the best bonus offers for American bettors.
Explore the intriguing history of the NFL’s greatest rivalries, which adds a fascinating dimension to the world of football, as outlined in our relevant article.
BetMGM and the NFL Betting Scene
These days when Lynch is not campaigning for a more accommodating league, he is promoting BetMGM, a sportsbook with one of the best bonus offers for American bettors. Besides the bonus offers, BetMGM offers punters who like to bet on NFL games a good pool of NFL betting promotions at bettingbonus.com.
Conclusion: The Future of Cleats Regulation
The NFL has a long history of handing down fines to players and despite the easing of the restrictions in recent years, there is nothing to indicate that players will have total freedom in choosing cleats of their choice soon.
But despite the threat of hefty fines or even sanctions, NFL stars have continued to defy the league with the continued use of cleats as a tool for expressing their opinions. And it remains to be seen if the NFL will yield to the pressure from all quarters regarding the strict regulations on player’s cleats.