Times-Union readers want to know:

 

Is it true that the NFL said that it would fine players for wearing cleats or other uniform accessories commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

Well, the NFL has been notoriously strict about uniform enhancements and accessories.

In 2011, the league said that it would not fine players for wearing 9/11 tribute gear on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack. And recently, according to Sports Illustrated’s Jonathan Jones, the NFL announced that players can wear custom cleats promoting a charitable cause of their choice in Week 13 only (for the Jaguars, that would be Dec. 4 at home against the Denver Broncos). The league must preapprove the shoes, and players will be required to auction off the cleats with 100 percent of the proceeds going to charity.

But those instances are few. Usually, the NFL takes the hard line. Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, whose mother died from breast cancer, was fined in 2015 for wearing eye black that said, “Find a Cure” in her honor. Also in 2015, the NFL unveiled its new anti-domestic violence public service announcement featuring Steelers cornerback William Gay talking about his mother, who was killed by a domestic abuser. A few days later, the league fined Gay $5,787 for wearing purple shoes in honor of his mother and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

TruthOrFiction points out, however, that the NFL does donate the money from fines to charities. The league has said in a statement that players sometimes request specific charities, but that the league tries to “stay universal” when handing out the money. That means fines handed down for 9/11 cleats could be donated to 9/11-related charities — or not.

It is true that the NFL warned players that they would be fined for wearing 9/11 tribute cleats (all NFL players wore a league-approved helmet sticker to commemorate the anniversary of Sept. 11).

The league usually hands out fines on Tuesday or Wednesday following a game, but the list of fines for Week 1 contains none for uniform violations and Week 2 fines haven’t been released yet. We will update in a future Fact Check column if fines are released.

Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson said before his first game that a league official warned he’d be fined for wearing custom cleats, the Tennessean reported, according to TruthOrFiction.com.

A news release from Williamson later said he would auction off his 9/11 cleats rather than face the fine.

But the Tennessean newspaper reported that Williamson apparently changed his mind before the game when he saw that the report about the NFL violation fine went viral.

In the Sunday, Sept. 11 season-opener against the Minnesota Vikings, the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Williamson came out of the tunnel wearing the patriotic cleats,

Several of his teammates offered to help pay the fine if he wore the cleats, as did four New York and New Jersey police associations, including the union that represents the police department that patrols the World Trade Center complex.

“I just felt like I got so much support across the country, and especially when the New York and New Jersey police unions said that they would pay my fine, that really meant a lot,” Williamson said after the Titans’ 26-15 loss at Nissan Stadium, “so I felt like if I didn’t wear them, I just wouldn’t have felt good about it. I felt like I had to do that, just for myself and to represent the people that were lost and the people that do their jobs every day to protect us. I feel like it was just a duty.”

During team warmups, the linebacker wore plain white cleats, like his teammates, the Tennessean reported. He said he wore the plain cleats to avoid NFL representatives approaching him before the game.

Williamson’s star-spangled blue cleats with red- and white-striped Nike swooshes featured the words “Never Forget” and “9/11” on the back of the shoes, with the “11” representing the Twin Towers.

Williamson is auctioning the cleats to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, plus offering a meet and greet, two VIP tickets to a Titans home game and an autographed jersey.

New York Giants wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz also wore patriotic cleats in Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, as did Atlanta Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Beckham’s special cleats were red, white and blue and emblazoned with the bust of a bald eagle. Cruz’s cleats had red and white stripes splashed with blue-star accents.

Beckham’s shoes portrayed the Twin Towers, while Cruz’s had a fire-truck theme that featured his late father’s engine number. His dad was a smoke eater — a firefighter who would search for people before air packs were used for air — in Paterson, N.J., before his death in 2007.

 

Carole Fader: (904) 359-4635