Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson planned to wear commemorative cleats on Sunday during the Titans' season opener to honor the 15-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Considering Giants receivers Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz are expected to do the same, it would seem like Williamson's gesture would be welcomed by the NFL, but that is apparently not the case.
Per the Tennessean, an NFL representative called Williamson when it heard about his plans and informed him that he would be fined for a uniform violation if he wore the cleats.
"I don't want to draw negative attention, so I'm just going to focus on playing the game," Williamson said Friday, per the Tennessean. "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."
Williamson's cleats were to be painted red, white, and blue and emblazoned with "9-11-01" and "Never Forget" on each shoe. Rather than wearing the cleats on Sunday, Williamson will auction them off to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, whose mission "is to honor heroes,Keep legacies alive & provide once in a lifetime experiences to warriors from the Battlefields to the Ballfields," per its official website.
Williamson will also bring two veterans to Sunday's game. "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.," he said. "I feel like it's a great cause."
If Williamson decides to change course and wear the cleats, he has the backing of several police unions. Bobby Egbert, a spokesperson for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department officers, said in an email to The Tennessean:
"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, 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."
Another union head, Paul Nunziato, stated (per the New York Post) that Roger Goodell would be, "commit(ing) a personal foul against humanity" if the NFL fined Williamson for wearing the cleats.