04 Dec Colts get a kick out of helping causes
INDIANAPOLIS — There was a time when Darius Butler failed to fully grasp the gravity of the hunger issue that afflicts many in this, the world’s most prosperous country.
But the Indianapolis Colts cornerback is proof that awareness can prompt real action. That’s how the Darius Butler Foundation was born, a case of one man doing his part to feed the hungry in Central Indiana and his native South Florida.
“As Americans, I don’t think we understand how significant a problem this is, even in our own country,” Butler said. “One in five children go to sleep hungry every night. That’s crazy to think about when you’re living in your own bubble. But food and nutrition is right up there as the most important (need) on the list. You could only imagine if your children or loved ones had to go without food.”
Those are not facts most dwell on daily. But now, Butler and other Colts are seizing an opportunity to raise awareness of that and many other causes.
That’s the chance afforded to them by the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative, a league-wide effort that will permit players to promote charitable causes in Week 13 games through customized cleats that display various messages.
Butler will, of course, have a specialized shoe promoting his own foundation and its important cause. Punter Pat McAfee will wear a pair promoting Wish for Heroes, an organization that assists active-duty military and veterans. Center Ryan Kelly will display a design supporting Concerns of Police Survivors, an organization that helps the families of fallen police officers.
The list goes on and on, with an array of causes that runs the gamut. This allows players to use their rather large platforms to benefit others, and that’s a win for all involved.
“You see so much negative publicity about guys off the football field and not enough good news,” Butler said. “Most of the guys that I’ve played with have impacted their communities in positive ways. So, I think it’s a good chance to show that.”
A rare chance, too.
The NFL takes players’ appearances seriously. Everything a player wears, literally from head to toe, is regulated by a uniform code that discourages individualism and promotes team above all.
This is true even in regard to socks. Yes, socks. You’d best be sure and wear the right color. And be certain they’re the right length, too. If not, it could cost you.
Fines for uniform infractions are doled out on a weekly basis in the NFL, covering everything from improper chinstraps to pants that do not adequately cover the knees to — lest we forget — those pesky socks.
If enforced, the minimum fine for violations exceeds $6,000.
Generally, players are permitted to wear only black or white cleats — the whole team must wear the same color — with accents limited to a maximum of three agreed-upon, team-related colors.
“The uniform has become something that is pretty rigid,” McAfee said. “So, for the NFL to open this opportunity for players to shed a light on a cause that’s near and dear to their heart, I think it’s great. It’s a big deal. And it’s cool that players are taking advantage of it.”
One such player is safety Matthias Farley. Like Butler, he once was blissfully unaware of the cause he now supports. But he’ll be displaying on his cleats support for the Brandon Marshall Foundation, an organization started by the New York Jets receiver who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The foundation raises awareness of mental illness and fights the stigma associated with it. .
“I had someone very close to me who battled some issues and I wasn’t very knowledgeable or even receptive to those issues because I had never dealt with them myself,” Farley said. “It’s not talked about at all. But one in four people are dealing with something, whether it be anxiety or depression, bipolar issues, whatever. … You never know what people are dealing with. People could be just torn up inside. And I think it gets swept under the rug.”
Farley and others will have a chance to show off their causes front and center when the Colts visit the Jets on Monday night. In the process, they’re having their share of fun taking advantage of the relaxed rules. Some are putting significant time and effort into their designs.
And why not? Maybe those efforts will result in one less kid going hungry. Maybe they’ll end up helping a service member in need. Or maybe someone out there softens their stance on mental illness.
“There’s so many issues that we don’t even think about,” Farley said. “Having this week, I think, is going to start a lot of important conversations.”
Follow Colts Insider Stephen Holder on Twitter: @HolderStephen.