Titans' Avery Williamson wears 9/11 cleats despite fine threat

Titans linebacker Avery Williamson came out of the tunnel wearing his custom patriotic cleats for the season opener against the Vikings on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Williamson originally planned to wear the cleats to honor those who died, changed his mind when an NFL representative called to inform him about a looming fine for violating uniform code, and 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.

“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 Titans' 26-15 loss at Nissan Stadium, "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.”

Titans general manager Jon Robinson patted Williamson on the chest during team warmups, when the linebacker was wearing plain white cleats, like his teammates.

Williamson said he wore the plain cleats to avoid NFL representatives approaching him before the game. He said Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey were supportive of his decision.

"I just didn’t want it to be a distraction, and they were fine with it," Williamson said, "so I went ahead and did it."

Williamson’s star-spangled blue cleats with red- and white-striped Nike swooshes were airbrushed by True Blue Customs in Lexington, Ky. They feature the words “Never Forget” and “9/11” on the back of the shoes, with the "11" representing the Twin Towers. The NFL mandates all teammates wear the same color scheme on their shoes.

Williamson is auctioning the cleats to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, plus offering a meet and greet, two VIP tickets to a Titans home game and an autographed jersey.

“I’m going to try to get a couple of veterans to come to a game,” Williamson told The Tennessean on Friday. “I feel like just reaching out to people, helping them, somebody that’s served our country, I feel like that’s a great honor, so I wanted to do something nice for them. I feel like it’s a great cause.”

Multiple New York and New Jersey police associations have Avery Williamson’s back.

The groups have offered to pay a fine levied by the NFL against Williamson if the Titans’ starting linebacker goes through with his original plan to honor those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, by wearing custom patriotic cleats during the team’s season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Williamson’s plan changed when a league representative called to inform him about a looming fine for violating uniform code.

“I don’t want to draw negative attention, so I’m just going to focus on playing the game,” Williamson told The Tennessean on Friday. “Once I heard from them, I didn’t even try to argue anything. I just left it alone. I didn’t want to press the issue.”

Bobby Egbert, the public information officer for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents the police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, reached out to The Tennessean early Saturday morning. His email read, in part:

“The PAPD is the police department that has always patrolled the World Trade Center complex. On September 11, 2001, the PAPD lost 37 police officers at the World Trade Center, the largest, single loss ever suffered by a police department in the history of American law enforcement.

“We read, with understandable interest, your piece on Avery Williamson and the NFL's stance on Avery honoring the September 11th victims. We, along with the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association, are offering to pay any reasonable fine levied by the NFL if Avery chooses to wear his 9/11 cleats.”

Egbert asked that this offer be brought to Williamson’s attention. Union leaders from both organizations reiterated this promise in comments to the New York Post.

Later Saturday, two additional law enforcement associations joined in the pledge, the New Jersey State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association and the State Troopers Fraternal Association of the New Jersey State Police.

Williamson’s star-spangled blue cleats with red- and white-striped Nike swooshes were airbrushed by True Blue Customs in Lexington, Ky. They feature the words “Never Forget” and “9/11” on the back of the shoes, with the "11" representing the Twin Towers. The NFL mandates all teammates wear the same color scheme on their shoes.

Williamson is instead auctioning the cleats to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, plus offering a meet and greet, two VIP tickets to a Titans home game and an autographed jersey.

“I’m going to try to get a couple of veterans to come to a game,” Williamson said. “I feel like just reaching out to people, helping them, somebody that’s served our country, I feel like that’s a great honor, so I wanted to do something nice for them. I feel like it’s a great cause.”

The Tennessean


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