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Two Pittsburgh Steelers players who honored their mothers by wearing memorial accessories received fines for uniform violations from the NFL today.
The NFL issued a $5,787 fine to cornerback William Gay for wearing purple cleats to shed light on domestic violence. When Gay was 8 years old, his stepfather shot his mother, Carolyn Hall, three times, murdering her, then killing himself. Gay volunteers at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater of Pittsburgh and has been outspoken against domestic violence.
He also wore purple cleats last year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is October, but did not receive fines. NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala noted that the cleats Gay wore are the official team cleats for the Minnesota Vikings, but it’s a violation for a Steeler to wear them as part of his uniform.
“I think we all know why I wore the purple cleats,” Gay told ESPN. He says he won’t appeal the fine.
Gay’s teammate, DeAngelo Williams — who made news when he announced that his organization, the DeAngelo Williams Foundation, would paid for mammograms for 53 women — also received a fine. The league dinged him $5,787 for wearing eye black that said: “We will find a cure” and a breast cancer ribbon.
Williams had asked the league if he could wear pink for the entire season to honor his mother, Sandra Hill, who died of breast cancer last year. The NFL declined his request and issued this statement:
"There is a long-standing policy for all players regarding uniforms that is league-wide for all 32 teams. The league works with the clubs and players to raise awareness collectively for breast cancer during the month of October."
The NFL didn't fine him for dyeing his hair pink or wearing pink toenail polish after Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Earlier this year, Cam Heyward, another Steeler, received a fine for wearing eye black that said “Iron” and “Head” to honor his father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who died of cancer in 2006. But last week Heyward wore eye black that said, “Tackle” and “Cancer.” The league approved this eye black and did not fine Heyward.
Slate called the fines hypocritical and blasted the league for only caring about issues if it can further its brand.
But Gay told Kinkhabwala that he’s glad that his fine increases awareness about domestic violence.
“People now know what purple means. We’re taking steps.”