The NFL is planning to relax its uniform code regarding personal messages for one week each season, Sports Illustrated reported, and Titans linebacker Avery Williamson may not receive a fine from the league for wearing custom patriotic cleats Sunday on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to ESPN.
Williamson originally planned to wear the star-spangled blue cleats with red- and white-striped Nike swooshes during the Titans' season opener against the Vikings at Nissan Stadium. But in an effort to avoid becoming a distraction, Williamson changed his mind when an NFL representative called to inform him about a looming fine for violating uniform code.
He changed his mind once again Saturday night after The Tennessean's report about the situation went viral. Several of his teammates offered to help pay the fine if he wore the cleats, as did four New York and New Jersey police associations, including the union that represents the police department that patrols the World Trade Center complex.
On Monday, Titans coach Mike Mularkey said he encouraged Williamson to wear the cleats and would pay any fine from the league.
"Well, I said, 'I'm going to shoot you straight like I shoot everybody straight. 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,' " Mularkey said. "And him wearing those shoes is doing something the right way.
"If he gets a fine, I'm going to take care of that."
The NFL is planning to allow players to promote pre-approved causes with their uniforms during Week 13 games, the weekend of Dec. 4, according to Sports Illustrated. Players must auction the cleats and donate the proceeds to the charity or cause.
The league could announce the plan as early as this week.
Williamson is auctioning his cleats to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, plus offering a meet and greet, two VIP tickets to a Titans home game and an autographed jersey.
The NFL has been notoriously strict about its uniform code.
In August, the league prohibited the Dallas Cowboys from wearing a helmet sticker honoring local police.
Last season, the NFL fined two Pittsburgh Steelers players $5,787 each for first-offense uniform violations — running back DeAngelo Williams for wearing "Find the Cure" in his eye black to promote breast cancer awareness and cornerback William Gay for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness about domestic violence.
In 2013, then-Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was fined $10,500 for wearing green cleats to promote mental health awareness.
Several NFL players wore patriotic cleats Sunday.
“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," Williamson said after the game. "So 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.”
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