On Sunday, the NFL unveiled its new anti-domestic violence PSA, featuring Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay talking about his mother, who was killed at the hands of a domestic abuser when Gay was only eight years old.
On Wednesday, the NFL fined Gay $5,787 for wearing purple shoes in honor of his mother and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“I broke the rule,” Gay told NFL.com’s Aditi Kinkhabwala, adding that he hopes the NFL will donate the fine to a domestic violence cause, despite the fact that the NFL usually donates fines to the NFL Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw Players Association’s Player Assistance Trust.
Gay is the third player this season to be fined by the league for violating its uniform policy in an attempt to draw attention to a cause close to their heart The NFL also fined Gay’s teammate, DeAngelo Williams, for writing the message “We will find a cure” and a pink ribbon on his eye black to honor his late mother, Sandra Kay Hill, who passed away from breast cancer last year.
Williams, who also lost four aunts to breast cancer, has been a huge supporter of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness initiatives, which include each team wearing pink merchandise during the month of October. Despite the fact that only eight percent of the proceeds from the sales of those items goes to the breast cancer research, Williams truly believes in the power of the awareness. He had previously asked the NFL if he could wear pink on his uniform all year long in order to honor his mother, but the league denied that request, stating that there were “no exceptions” to the uniform policy.
As reported by NFL.com’s Aditi Kinkhabwala, this was the first fine that Williams has received for the message on his eye black, despite wearing it the entire month as the NFL has honored breast cancer awareness. Gay has reportedly worn purple cleats the last two Octobers, but this was his first fine for the infraction as well. According to Kinkhabwala, Gay is okay with the fine as long as he is helping to bring the issue into the light.
William Gay not angry abt fine over purple cleats. Says, "People now know what purple means. We're taking steps." #domesticviolence
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 28, 2015
Earlier this month, the NFL fined another Steeler, Cam Heyward, for wearing “Iron Head” on his eye black to honor his father, a former NFL player who died from bone cancer when Heyward was only 17 years old. The NFL agreed to reduce those fines if Heyward stopped wearing the message “Iron Head,” which was his father’s nickname. Over the weekend, Heyward wore “Tackle Cancer” on his eyeblack, which was reportedly a message approved by the NFL.
Last year, after the league’s record on domestic violence came into the spotlight due to leaked video showing Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious, the NFL dedicated millions of dollars to fighting the epidemic. But Jennifer Westberry, an advocate with the domestic violence assistance organization D.C. Safe, told ThinkProgress that she would like to see the NFL to support domestic violence as visibly as they support breast cancer.
“Can I just get one sports team to wear purple?” she asked. “That’s the dream.”