It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Week 13 is the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats weekend where NFL players and coaches can wear their favorite causes on their feet. When the San Francisco 49ers set foot on the grass at Levi’s Stadium to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, many will do so while representing people and organizations that have special meaning to them.
“I think it’s amazing,” said running back Christian McCaffrey, who is representing The Logan Project as part of the Christian McCaffrey Foundation. “I think this game is so much more than just a game, and I think you see that during this week when so many different players honor so many different foundations and causes. And obviously it’s bigger than us so to be able to impact millions of people in that way is special.”
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who will be returning to the field Sunday after spending the majority of the season battling foot and ankle injuries, agrees with McCaffrey.
“It’s cool,” Armstead, who is representing the Armstead Academic Project, said. “I don’t know when [the NFL] started it, but My Cause My Cleats is a cool initiative and program to be able to support different foundations and different organizations. I’ll be supporting my non-profit, and I think it’s just a great thing that they do.”
Christian McCaffrey – The Logan Project
The Logan Project began during McCaffrey’s time in North Carolina, when McCaffrey learned about a young fan who loved the running back.
“In Carolina, there’s a young kid named Logan who had cancer and unfortunately passed away,” McCaffrey said. “But one of the things he said in his obituary, or that was written in his obituary was that he wanted to start a charity where you can play video games with cancer patients, specifically kids. And so what I started to do is we took a bunch of Panthers players, we went to the Levine’s Children’s Hospital, and we just played video games with some of the kids there who were going through a really difficult time.
“And just to be a spark in their day for a little bit where they can get their mind off of what they’re going through and play video games. So that’s what I’m doing it on this year to honor Logan and his family.”
Talanoa Hufanga – Tonga Red Cross
“The Tonga Red Cross for me was just obviously my culture, my home, and a lot of what happened within the last year…with the tsunami that hit and everything that’s going on,” said safety Talanoa Hufanga. “It’s just something that could really show the support and honestly, this offseason is going to be a great time just to dive into more depth. But I kind of want to just put it on the map and make sure it’s noticed and what’s going on.”
Brandon Aiyuk and Samuel Womack – Boys and Girls Club
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is supporting the Boys and Girls Club of America, while rookie Samuel Womack is working with the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley.
“In Detroit, I went to the Boys and Girls Club growing up and they just helped me just stay out of trouble, just being on the streets and stuff like that,” Womack said. “That was just the environment that I grew up in…So they helped me and they taught me stuff and helped me with my school work and just kept me active.”
It’s an organization that’s close to Aiyuk’s heart as well.
“I went to the Boys and Girls Club growing up, and that played a big part in my involvement,” said Aiyuk, whose cleats were designed by Castro of Undefined Arts. “So I shine a light on the Boys and Girls Club whenever I get a chance to.”
As a rookie, it’s Womack’s first My Cause My Cleats, so the design was important.
“They’re blue and white and they’ve got kids holding hands together on them, and then they’ve got the Boys and Girls Club sign on them, so it is dope,” Womack said. “…This is my first time ever getting cleats designed, so just to do it this way is, and it was something that really meant something to me in my heart and I was just excited for it.”
Jimmy Garoppolo – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
“It’s a new one for me this year,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. “I’ve seen George [Kittle] do it in the past and I just thought it was a cool opportunity. TAPS is people who have lost someone through the military and any bit of light we could shine on their situation and just bring a little bit of joy to them, I think goes a long way, so that’s what we were trying to do.”
Aaron Banks – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
“I’ve had some family members who have struggled with depression and mental illnesses, and I think it’s something that kind of gets swept under the rug in sports,” said offensive lineman Aaron Banks. “It’s something that we should bring awareness to.”
Kyle Juszczyk – Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is representing the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, in honor of David Ward, who has been an integral part of his life.
“My high school coach – who’s really much more than just a coach, he was really my mentor growing up, took me on my college visits, officiated my wedding, somebody I talk to like every week – he has Crohn’s Disease,” Juszczyk said. “And it’s something that he’s dealt with since he was 17. So most every year I’ve done it for this foundation…It’s an exciting thing for me to be able to put his name on my cleats.”
Nick Bosa – More Than 4 Athletics
“It’s a pediatric cancer organization that was created by Sean Fredella, who originally got in contact with my brother,” said pass rusher Nick Bosa. “Joey’s been working with him for a while. A big passion of Joey’s was going to hospitals and meeting kids. I joined them a couple times during the holidays, and it’s just a great cause. They raise money and they work with a lot of athletes throughout the league…My cleats have names of kids who have battled disease.”
Azeez Al-Shaair – Mobilize Love
“I picked Mobilize Love, because in this offseason, I had done some work with them,” said linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair. Every Thursday, they would go out to different areas. Hunters Point was the area that they hit a lot. And I would go out there, and have these trucks that literally had book stations…They have food. They have entertainment. So it’s just really impactful I think for the different communities.
“And especially Hunters Point, that area, a lot of people don’t get a lot of help in that area, and I think that they do a great job of being in the heart of where the issues are, and bringing direct help every week. And it’s something consistent for kids who don’t have a lot of consistency here in poverty. So it was very passionate for me, to be able to be a part of something like this.”
Chris Foerster – Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation
Run game coordinator and offensive line coach Chris Foerster will be representing the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation to honor his wife, Michelle, who has battled ovarian cancer. The Foundation’s name will be on one shoe, while Michelle’s name will be on the other.
“It was a slam dunk for us, because, in 2018, she was diagnosed with a form of ovarian cancer…and has been fighting the fight for however long it’s been, four or five years now,” Foerster said. “She’s gone through her third bout of chemo…When you live it, and you see it in someone you love, and somebody close to you in your family, you just realize what a battle it is. And she’s far outlived expectations. To ever say that she has lost the battle, or will lose the battle, she’s won…So it’s always good to be able to represent and to be able to give back in some way to these people who have done so much to help us.”
Taybor Pepper – Ele’s Place
“Ele’s Place is a not-for-profit that helps with childhood grief,” said long snapper Taybor Pepper. ” Young Childhood Grief was my wife’s platform when she was Miss Michigan and when she competed in Miss America…Her father died when she was four…It affected her, which affects me.
“She actually won the Quality of Life Award, which is a big deal in the Miss America organization…She gave a speech while she was at Miss America and she won that award so I asked to have the little trophy that she won put on the side of the cleat.”
Oren Burks – South County Football Alumni Association
“South County Football Alumni Association is my high school, and through that, we have done some work in Ghana,” said linebacker Oren Burks. “We did a camp in 2021 and we sponsored our first student-athlete. His name is Desmond. He plays football in California. It’s his first time in the States and we’re supporting him with a host family…so we’re raising funds to support him through high school football and all the things that he needs off the field. He’s just an incredible kid. He’s inspiring to me. He just loves the game of football, always smiles. We just wanted to support him in whatever way we could.”
Linebacker Marcelino McCrary-Ball designed Burks’ cleats, as well as the cleats for linebackers coach Johnny Holland, who is in remission from multiple myeloma and representing the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Head coach Kyle Shanahan will be representing the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research to honor Holland as well.
Dontae Johnson – Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital
“I’ve actually worked with the cancer unit numerous times in the past and I think it’s just heartbreaking that a kid has to, in a sense, live their lives in and out of the hospital, or connected to a tube,” Dontae Johnson said. “That’s the reason I did it.”
Drake Jackson – 95 Problems Foundation
“I like to give back to the less fortunate, and I like to also go to special needs proms and things of that sort, just to give people who never had the opportunity to do such things, to have that opportunity to do so,” said defensive lineman Drake Jackson. “To be able to show it on the football field is definitely a great thing, because it’s kind of like we’re showing both of our passions, one on the field and one off the field.”
*Photos provided by 49ers.com