When Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall first decided to wear green shoes to raise awareness for mental illness during Thursday Night Football last week, the NFL told him he wouldn’t be allowed on the field with the shoes on. The league relented after public pressure, but it promised Marshall he’d be fined.
Marshall, who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2011, wore the shoes anyway. And the NFL followed up on its threat, fining Marshall $10,500 for violating the league’s uniform rules. Marshall tweeted the NFL letter announcing the fine Wednesday along with a message:
Football is my platform not my purpose. This fine is nothing compared to the conversation started & awareness raised. pic.twitter.com/P9GNygFpH9
— Machine Marshall (@BMarshall) October 16, 2013
As I wrote last week, the big problem with the NFL’s decision to fine Marshall is that the league is gate-keeping what type of disease awareness is appropriate for its players. The NFL partners with the American Cancer Society to spend an entire month promoting breast cancer awareness — a worthy cause — but the minute a player like Marshall wants to raise awareness for something else (in Marshall’s case, a disease he has), it becomes a problem. A little common sense on the NFL’s part would have fixed that, though it’s certainly hard to argue with the fact that the NFL-generated controversy around Marshall’s shoes raised awareness for his cause, especially after he caught nine passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns on the national stage.
Marshall, for his part, is auctioning the shoes to raise money for charity. He will also pay the fine and match it with a donation to a cancer-related charity, since he was cautious about not wanting to take the focus off of cancer. The NFL gives fine money it collects to charitable organizations or to support funds for retired players.