The NFL, unlike the NBA, doesn’t allow players to wear the shoes of their choice, with the league implementing a strict colour code rule.
Even then, some players break the in-game dress codes, particularly when it comes to cleats. The good news is that the NFL now permits players to alter their cleats before and during games. However, the NFL’s choices regarding what qualifies as customised cleats aren’t always clear to the players.
The new NFL rules
The NFL modified its footwear policies in 2017, moving away from a rigid requirement that all club footwear adhere to specific colour and design guidelines to one in which players are permitted to wear customised cleats during pregame warmups and throughout the game.
The approval of such customised cleats is still pending. But outside of the actual game, players are free to use any cleat colours they want, provided there are no objectionable designs or unlicensed branding.
The players must then change back into cleats that are black, white, or what is known as a “constitutional colour,” or the official team colour, once the game has started. (This was another modification. Previously, teams had to decide whether to wear all black or all white.)
What the players had to say about custom cleats
Several players in the league started using unique cleats to make statements about everything from social injustice to family members.
DeSean Jackson, who was playing for Washington in 2016, was just one of those who made a splash. He raised awareness of police brutality by choosing to warm up for Week 4’s game while donning a pair of BrandBlack protest cleats.
“I felt like I was silent long enough,” Jackson told Bleacher Report’s Donte Stallworth.
“This is my ninth NFL season. I have a platform and the visibility to take a stand and do it in the right way.”
Antonio Brown, plying his trade for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time, was another player who spoke on the NFL’s rules when it came to cleats. In the 2016 season, the league made the player switch out his cleats three times until that point.
Brown wore a set of cleats in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles that honoured his four children. Before the NFL ordered him to take off the blue-and-yellow spikes or risk a second-half suspension, he momentarily wore them on the field.
Brown was required to take off his spikes for a game against the New York Jets in remembrance of the late Muhammad Ali. Brown was aware that as long as he wore custom spikes, the violations would continue.
“There are rules and guidelines you’ve got to follow. I’ve just got to follow the rules,” the wide receiver told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.