The NFL has long been referred to as the “no fun league” because of its strict rules prohibiting elements that could add to the game’s entertainment. One example includes the league’s policy on cleats, which states that players must wear only black, white or team colors.
So unlike the NBA, where athletes can be more creative, an Eagles player would be fined for wearing colorful cleats.
Well, that rule doesn’t apply during one special week of the NFL season. This year the league set My Cause My Cleats for Week 13, allowing players to wear customized cleats to represent charities. The Eagles will be on the road against the New York Jets on Sunday and 35 players are expected to participate, including Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Lane Johnson, Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor, and Rodney McLeod.
“It’s always a great time of the year when the league allows us to bring in our creativity and fashion sense with the cleats, and all for a great cause,” McLeod said. “It’s the one exception where you can get as funky with the colors as you like.”
Shoe customization designer Marcus Rivero, also known as Soles By Sir, got more than 350 orders from NFL players for the occasion. He said he has been working on this year’s crop of cleats since the beginning of October.
Former Eagles defensive back Nolan Carroll was Rivero’s first client. Then with the Miami Dolphins, Carroll was there as Rivero started his cleat customization business. Now he has worked with players such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Marshawn Lynch, and most of the Eagles.
One of Rivero’s more memorable projects came when he outfitted Lynch with 24-karat-clad cleats during the 2015 NFC championship game. Rivero designed the $1,100 shoe, but the NFL wasn’t having it. The league threatened to eject the Seahawks running back if he followed through with wearing them during the game.
“It’s a really cool symmetry between the athletes and myself,” Rivero said, “where they have a vision, I take it and sprinkle a little artistic stuff to it, put it on a shoe, and bam, you get the stuff you see on Sundays.”
Some of this weekend’s orders came in as late as last week, including one from the Eagles’ starting quarterback. Hurts’ cleats will represent youth development through the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Ryan Kerrigan and Jake Elliott will show their support for man’s best friend. Kerrigan will support Road Dogs & Rescue, while Elliot selected Street Tails Animal Rescue.
Thirteen Eagles, including Smith and Miles Sanders, chose to represent the Eagles Autism Foundation.
While many players will support organizations they’re passionate about, some will have personal connections to their selections. Eagles safety Anthony Harris looks forward to this week every season to highlight the One Love Foundation.
When Harris was a senior in high school preparing to attend Virginia, a domestic violence event resulted in the death of Virginia women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love. Love’s murder made national headlines and resulted in the One Love Foundation. Harris supports this non-profit every year, and he’ll add his own charity, the Anthony Harris Foundation, as well.
Harris’ cleats will be mostly blue and black, as he decided not to get as creative with the color scheme as in years past.
“This year I put more of the focus on the names of the foundations in order to draw into the name recognition and make people think, ‘OK, let me type it in Google and do some research on it,’” Harris said. “It’s there where they can dive into it more.”
Another former Virginia athlete, Rodney McLeod, will be representing the organization he and his wife, Erika, co-founded, Change Our Future. Through Change Our Future, the McLeods have focused on empowering Philly’s youth. They’ll host a Sneaker Ball event on Dec. 6, with proceeds going to their foundation, plus toys and sneakers will be donated to kids in underserved communities.
“I just hope it brings exposure to who we are,” McLeod said. “For [Change Our Future] it’s all about the young people, and that’s the purpose of putting kids first on my cleats. Hopefully it will open the eyes of many to want to get involved.”
As for Rivera, he’s winding down on what has been a hectic two months. He’s been working long hours for this special week, he said. He gets shoe customization orders all the time, and he usually works far fewer hours.
“When it comes to the league, I’m thankful,” Rivero said. “You get to see a side of these guys that you don’t often get to see. These are the ones that mean the most to me because it’s more than just paint on shoes. This actually means something.”