It won’t just be Mohamed Sanu sporting fancy custom cleats over the next couple of weeks, and they won’t be limited to warmups. Atlanta will have 16 players and head coach Dan Quinn participating in My Cause, My Cleats this year to benefit charities of their choosing.
The NFL is generally a stick in the mud about any deviation from its uniform policy. DeAngelo Williams was fined in 2015 for wearing eye black that read “Find the Cure” in honor of his mother, Sandra Hill, who lost her life after a valiant battle against an aggressive form of breast cancer. The league fined Williams’ teammate at the time, William Gay, that same week for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness about domestic violence.
I could go on and on with examples, but let’s focus on the fact that the league is making this notable exception for a good cause. The My Cause, My Cleats initiative, which will happen in Weeks 13, 14, and 15 of this NFL season, allows players to wear custom cleats celebrating a charity or organization that helps people in need, and then the cleats are auctioned off, with the proceeds benefiting each organization.
Here’s a rundown of the cleats you can expect to see from the Falcons, the organizations they’ll benefit, and what the players have to say about it.
Matt Bryant: American SIDS Institute and The ALS Association
Bryant and his wife, Melissa, lost a child to SIDS. That devastating experience led him to support the American SIDS Institute as they research medical vulnerabilities that lead to sudden infant death syndrome. You can support their efforts here.
Bryant’s cleats will also support The ALS Association, raising money and working toward a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerves in the brain and spinal column and is always fatal for those who suffer from it. To support the efforts of The ALS Association, visit their website.
De’Vondre Campbell: American Cancer Society
Campbell’s mother is a breast cancer survivor, and his cleats celebrate they work they do for those battling cancer.
“My mother is a breast cancer survivor and I want to help bring awareness to the importance of research and finding a cure,” Campbell said via the team’s media relations department.
You can support the work of the American Cancer Society here.
Ben Garland: SHARE Military Initiative, Shepherd Center
Ben Garland is a proud veteran, and he’s supporting his military brothers and sisters with the work of the Shepherd Center as they provide resources and care to veterans who are suffering from the aftermath of brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
Proud to also represent @ShepherdsMen for #MyCauseMyCleats they raise awareness and resources for a life saving treatment program at Shepherd Center. Each day, 22 Veterans commit suicide and we simply cannot accept that as the norm. #sharetheburden pic.twitter.com/bvevF4nlMj— Ben Garland (@BenGarland63) November 27, 2018
Garland is also representing Children of Fallen Patriots, an organization that provides college funding for the children of soldiers who give their lives for our nation.
Marvin Hall: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Marvin Hall isn’t the only Falcon raising awareness and support for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta with his cleats, but he does have a special reason for focusing on childhood cancer patients.
“My cousin passed away at a very young age from childhood cancer, so this cause has a special place in my heart,” Hall said, via the team’s media relations department.
You can support the work of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as they help kids fighting juvenile cancers and other serious illnesses here.
Bruce Irvin: National Alliance on Mental Illness
There’s a real stigma associated with mental health issues in this nation, and it keeps people suffering from legitimate mental afflictions from receiving the help and care they need. Irvin is dedicating his cleats to raising awareness and providing support to those suffering from mental illness.
To support the work of NAMI and those battling mental illness, visit their website.
Grady Jarrett: Grady Health Foundation, Grady Memorial Hospital
It works out that Grady Jarrett and Grady Memorial Hospital share more than a name. They share a commitment to providing specialized medical care to children who need it.
“Through their partnership with Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital, Grady Hospital continues to lead in servicing the needs of our children, who require specialized medical care and attention,” Jarrett said via the team’s media relations staff. “It is humbling and gives me joy to be a part of such a great organization.”
For more information on supporting the Grady Health Foundation, visit their website.
Deion Jones: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
The Falcons are heavily involved in community work and spend a chunk of time each year visiting with children undergoing treatments at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Last year, Jones met a young girl who was fighting cancer, and they’ve maintained a friendship ever since. Jones’ cleats will honor her and other kids fighting battles, as well as the good work of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“I visited Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta last year and while I was there, made a very special friend,” Jones said via the team’s media relations department. “We still keep in touch and she has inspired me to wear cleats to promote awareness for childhood cancer research.”
To support Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, visit their website.
Julio Jones: Beloved Atlanta
Atlanta has a tragic distinction: It has the most profitable sex work economy in the nation. The women involved in this economy have often been the victims of sex trafficking. Others were driven into prostitution for survival or because of addiction.
Julio Jones is supporting Beloved Atlanta with his cleats. Beloved Atlanta is the only two-year residential program in the city for women who have been the victims of sexual exploitation and want a chance to break free of that life.
You can support the important work of Beloved Atlanta here.
Damontae Kazee: Boys & Girls Clubs of America
The league’s interceptions leader knows firsthand the positive influence the Boys & Girls Club can have on the lives of young people.
“I grew up in a Boys & Girls Club back at home and want to help empower kids to stay out of trouble,” Kazee said, via the team’s media relations staff. “Going to my local Boys & Girls Club is what kept me out of trouble.”
You can support the mission of the Boys & Girls Club here.
Alex Mack: Cure Tay-Sachs Foundation
Tay-Sachs disease is rare, but it’s got a 100% mortality rate for children who are born with it. Children with Tay-Sachs are missing a crucial enzyme that clears out proteins that interfere with growth and development. Atlanta’s center is dedicating his cleats to raising awareness of and support for those suffering from this rare disease.
“Tay-Sachs is a horrible disease that kills 100% of the children affected,” Mack said, via the Falcons’ media relations department. “The foundation is making real change and pushing research forward. In my time with this little known disease, I’ve seen the treatments go from theory to clinical trials, hopefully the cure is next.”
For more information on Tay-Sachs and how you can help, visit the Cure Tay-Sachs Foundation website.
Brian Poole: The Brian Poole Foundation
Brian Poole overcame some difficult circumstances to make it to where he is today. His foundation uses his experiences to support other kids trying to overcome similar circumstances.
“The Brian Poole Foundation’s purpose is to help at-risk youth and especially those children living with a parent who is incarcerated. I grew up with a parent who was incarcerated and this really hits home for me,” Poole said, via the Falcons’ media relations department.
Dan Quinn: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Dan Quinn loves and respects our military, and it’s not surprising that he would dedicate his shoes to T.A.P.S., an organization doing phenomenal work for surviving family members of our fallen servicemen and women. Quinn works with T.A.P.S. on a regular basis, creating unforgettable Falcons experiences for families who have experienced unthinkable loss.
“T.A.P.S. is an organization that means a lot to me and my wife Stacey. T.A.P.S. supports those families who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Quinn said, via the team’s media relations department.
You can support the work of T.A.P.S. and learn more about the organization here.
Calvin Ridley: SOS Children’s Village Coconut Creek
Atlanta’s standout rookie receiver is dedicating his cleats to a cause dear to his heart. After Ridley’s father, Colin, was deported to Guyana when Ridley was seven years old, he and his brother landed in foster care at SOS Children’s Village Coconut Creek for a while. That’s the organization Ridley is supporting with his cleats.
“After I got drafted, I drove down just to see the village again. I went down there and just sat and thought if I never went to foster care, I don’t know where I would have been. For My Cause, My Cleats I chose SOS Children’s Village. SOS changed my life and helped me get here,” Ridley said, via the team’s media relations department.
You can learn more about SOS Children’s Village Coconut Creek and the work they do with at-risk youth on their website.
Matt Ryan: Northside Hospital NICU Unit/March of Dimes
Matt and Sarah Ryan have happy, healthy twin boys. As is often the case with twins, they came early, and it was a scary situation for the Ryan family. In honor of the care and support the Ryans received during Sarah’s pregnancy, Ryan is dedicating his cleats to the NICU where his sons received their early life care, and to the March of Dimes, which raises money and educates people about issues relating to premature births.
I'm representing @marchofdimes in leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies & @northsidehosp NICU, for the incredible care and support provided to our boys who were born premature. Every baby deserves the best possible start. #mycausemycleats https://t.co/sJLBQ1xykb pic.twitter.com/EB5VR02gwi— Matt Ryan (@M_Ryan02) November 27, 2018
“I think probably the most nerve-wracking time for us both was when Sarah got admitted to the hospital last year in January, not knowing what was going on,” Ryan said during Wednesday’s media availability. “I think for anybody that has had children prematurely or has had a pregnancy that has been on bed rest in the hospital, the scariest thing is when they talk to you about survival rates for children born at certain times. That was probably the hardest thing to go through for the both of us.”
Keith Tandy: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Keith Tandy joins teammates Marvin Hall and Deion Jones in supporting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. His cleats focus on the hospital’s Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.
“I have always loved kids and my mother is a breast cancer survivor — this is the perfect combination of the two and to help bring light to pediatric cancer awareness,” Tandy said via the team’s media relations staff.
You can support the work of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders center here.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson: Get Georgia Reading Campaign
Reading can be an escape from day-to-day life. There’s nothing like immersing yourself into a whole other world through the characters in a compelling story. But Georgia struggles with an overwhelming illiteracy rate, and Wreh-Wilson wants to help change that by supporting the Get Georgia Reading Campaign.
The organization’s goal is to make sure that all Georgia third graders are reading on grade level by 2020. You can help them achieve that here.