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The NFL Gets Paid For Patriotism, Fines Player For Wearing Patriotic Cleats

The Green Bay Packers’ James Starks (44) tries to run away from Carolina Panthers’ Josh Norman (24) during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. The Panthers won 37–29. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone) CREDIT: BOB LEVERONE, AP
The Green Bay Packers’ James Starks (44) tries to run away from Carolina Panthers’ Josh Norman (24) during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. The Panthers won 37–29. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone) CREDIT: BOB LEVERONE, AP

After fining players multiple times this season for honoring their deceased parents, the NFL has found another uniform violation to crack down on: patriotic cleats.

On Sunday, as the NFL unveiled their Salute to Service campaign, Panthers cornerback Josh Norman wore red, white, and blue cleats to show his support for the troops. On Thursday, the NFL fined him $5,000 for this gesture. Norman is appealing the fine, but he wasn’t surprised by it.

“They gave up their lives so we can have freedom in this world and the United States of America; there is nothing greater than that. I just wanted to come out and pay homage to them, the proud and the brave,” he said after the Panthers win over Green Bay on Sunday.

“I may get fined for [the cleats], but it is what it is. The price we pay for freedom, I’ll take that any day. Big ups to them and everything they do for our country, I can’t be proud enough to be an American citizen.”

The NFL reportedly didn’t have a problem with the color scheme of Norman’s cleats, but rather the fact that they had writing on them — “PROUDBRAVE.”

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Last week, a report released by U.S. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain (R-AZ) revealed that the U.S. Department of Defense had paid the NFL $6.1 million from 2012 through 2015 for patriotic moments at games, including things like military appreciation nights and National Guards singing the National Anthem. Other sports leagues participated in paid patriotism as well, but the NFL was the league that profited the most.

After the report came out, commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league would audit the teams’ marketing contracts and refund money to the DOD in full if it finds that inappropriate payments were made.

“Supporting the military is part of the fabric of the NFL,” the NFL says on its Salute to Service website.

For every point scored during the league’s designated Salute to Service games, the NFL donates $1,000 to its three primary non-profit military partners, the Pat Tilman Foundation, USO, and Wounded Warriors Project. As of publication, the league says it has donated $658,000 through the campaign. The NFL also has green and camo merchandise for sale as part of the campaign, and gives a 15 percent discount to veterans and service members.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Norman is going to auction off the cleats and donate the money to the troops at Fort Jackson, the Army training base in Columbia.

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“Just give back to them and give them some hope and let them know we care about them and we love them as well,” Norman said. “That’s what I can do.”