It’s the most wonderful time of the year. December football. Holiday Spirit. The NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign.
During Week 13 of the season, players throughout the NFL will be representing causes that are important to them through custom designed cleats. The San Francisco 49ers will be at Lumen Field in Seattle to take on the Seahawks on Sunday, with several players participating in the campaign.
“It’s just big because it gives you something to represent on the outside,” said 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley. “We’re not just only football players…I think it’s just a blessing just to put some light on the other things other than just playing football.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan will also be wearing custom cleats, as he pays tribute to outside linebackers coach Johnny Holland, who stepped away from the team in September as he battles multiple myeloma.
“It was real cool, when they asked me that with the shoes,” Shanahan said. “But first thing, I just want to support Johnny. I think you guys know how much he means to me, how much he means to everybody in this building. And then it’s just cool that I didn’t know what myeloma was until Johnny got it. And then once I found out that he got it, then I’ve kind of seen how many people do have it. So it was kind of cool to bring awareness to it and support him and the cause as much as you can.”
Jimmy Garoppolo’s cleats will represent Good Tidings, an organization that “encourages and supports the growth of marginalized children in Northern California by creating environments for athletics, the arts, education and wonder.” Children from a school in San Francisco’s Tenderloin designed the images for the cleats.
“Just getting all these little kids to draw portraits and collages and kind of putting them all together on the shoe,” Garoppolo said. “We spent a lot of time on it…I’m pretty excited with where they’re going right now.”
Moseley partnered with UCSF and the research they’re doing around COVID-19, as he lost his close friend, LaKiya Rouse, who he called Kia, to the virus last year.
“I grew up with her,” Moseley said. “I actually went to high school with her. So she played basketball. She was on the girls team obviously, and I was on the guys team, but we always encouraged each other each game to do well. And her sister MaKala is my best friend from back home…It definitely shocked me [when she passed away]. I was very surprised because [COVID] hit home, but COVID was hitting so many homes around the world.”
Tight end George Kittle, who has had several family members in the military, including his uncle who served two tours, is representing Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
“At the 2019 Pro Bowl, I think it was, we got to work with TAPS and I got to really figure out what they were all about,” Kittle said. “They pay the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to live our lives here the way that we want to live them. And so I feel like as much help and awareness I can spread about TAPS and the good that they do. I just try to do it all the time because I think it’s a wonderful organization and I’ve met wonderful people through that organization and it’s just been fun for me to be able to work with them.”
DL D.J. Jones partnered with CityTeam, which works to provide food, clothing, shelter and programming in communities dealing with homelessness.
“Honestly, me and my wife were looking for an organization that was kind of smaller, but just the amount of homelessness is something that’s always been close to my heart,” Jones said. “Just seeing the homeless breaks my heart a ton, so who would I be not to help?”
For LB Azeez Al-Shaair, his cause hits close to home. He is working with Alzheimer’s Foundation, as his grandfather is battling dementia.
“I remember when I first noticed, it was my rookie year,” Al-Shaair said. “It was when we were in Sarasota getting ready to play the Saints, and I was able to go up to Tampa and see him. And at the time I didn’t know. But we had sat down and we were talking about the season and I just remember…we were talking and some of the stuff we had just talked about, hearing him say repetitively…[B]efore I left, my grandmother had told me that he had dementia. The person that he was to me, he’s such a big influence in my life and it meant a lot to me just growing up. Him and my mother are the two biggest inspirations I had to even be here. So something I would say that’s really dear to my heart.”
Moseley plans to wear his cleats for the rest of the season, and he was able to surprise Kia’s family with the news that she would be honored recently.
“They’re very excited about it,” Moseley said. “I let them know that I was going to do it last year, but then when I was home recently, I made a surprise visit to them. And just let them know again that I was going to do it. They were very happy. The family and I, when I was back home, we used to kick it a lot and we used to do barbecues and stuff like that. So I’m definitely excited to honor her.”
*Photos provided by 49ers.com