My Cause, My Cleats: How the Bucs are giving back, and how you can help
The NFL launched a program called My Cause, My Cleats in 2016 as an opportunity for NFL players to bend the uniform guidelines and wear cleats highlighting a charity or cause they are passionate about. Starting out with only a few hundred players participating, the initiative has grown exponentially. Last year, over 800 players used this opportunity to give recognition to their cause, and this year that number will be even higher.
Across the NFL on December 3 (Giving Tuesday), teams held an event called Unboxing Day, during which players got to “unbox” their cleats for the first time and see the designs created just for them. The players wore their cleats during home games on weeks 13 and 14, and the shoes are now up for auction at NFL Auction, with the money raised going directly to the charity of the players’ choice. Pictures of the players’ cleats are on all of the individual team websites, too, some including the stories behind their choices.
“Giving Back with Zack” — dRTB’s series of interviews by 12-year old reporter Zack Serebin — was on hand for Unboxing Day at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ training facility, and Zack got to talk to a couple of the players who had just unboxed their cleats.
We learned that Lavonte David was going to have a special Unboxing Event with his “little” from Big Brothers, Big Sisters, who helped design his cleats, later in the week.
Bradley Pinion was happy to show us his cleats, and was was also happy to hear that we had adopted Dexter. We showed him a picture of Zack and Dexter, and his face lit up. He told us that so far he has sponsored 10 dogs and that five of them have been adopted. Other people have shared with him that, like us, they ended up adopting dogs other than the ones they’d originally gone to see because of Punts for Pups. The more dogs that get adopted due to the exposure of his program is a huge win for him!
However, his cleats this year, as in every year since the program started, carry an airbrushed symbol of Convoy of Hope, an organization that helps with disaster relief. Convoy of Hope trucks have been among the first to respond to disasters throughout the world.
The organization also equips farmers and families with the skills and tools to produce life-sustaining crops through agriculture; partners with rural churches through training and mentoring; and feeds nutritious meals to over 200,000 children in 14 nations.
Bradley mentioned that he had volunteered with the organization during a few hurricanes and, like JJ Watt but on a smaller scale, started a relief fund for Hurricane Dorian.
Later I found out that because of Bradley’s work with Convoy of Hope, he was awarded $50,000 in 2017 by Nationwide Insurance, which he donated to the charity.
Jordan Whitehead, a safety, also spoke with us during Unboxing Day. He was drafted by the Bucs in 2018 from the University of Pittsburgh, and since last year was his first year in the league he was unfamiliar with My Cause, My Cleats. His best friend, James Connor, who plays for the Steelers, told him about the initiative, so Jordan decided to dedicate his cleats to Connor, who had Hodgkins lymphoma in college.
This year Jordan decided to highlight two causes, one on each cleat.
The American Cancer Society and James Connor’s name appear on one cleat, and the other he dedicated to a sister and brother with cerebral palsy, both from his high school, who were big supporters of his football games through high school, college and now with the Bucs.
The cleat is inscribed with the names Madison and Michael, who Jordan says give him strength. He will auction off one cleat and keep the other.
There are 41 Buccaneers participating in My Cause, My Cleats (check them all out at Buccaneers.com) and I’ve learned that 54 Jaguar players are participating this year. Cameron Jordan and Demario Darius from the Saints are also participating.