Panthers quarterback Cam Newton apparently isn’t content with typical statistics like passing yards or completion percentage. Despite the team’s high hopes for the playoffs, Newton has another form of gridiron expression in mind.
“I just read this GQ and they had the top best-dressed athletes, and I’m looking at it and where are the people in the NFL?” Newton said. “You always see the LeBron James, and the D-Wade and Carmelo Anthony, which is cool, but we have some well-dressed guys too.”
Of course, football players appear to be at a sartorial disadvantage to their counterparts in other sports. In the National Basketball Association, stars like James and Anthony have up to 82 occasions in the regular season to peacock their postgame fashions, whereas National Football League players have only 16. But that’s not stopping some players from playing footsies with the rules. Cleats, particularly, have become contested territory.
In October, Marshawn Lynch, a running back for the Seattle Seahawks, was fined $5,250 for wearing green cleats on the field. It wasn’t his first offense. In 2011, Lynch, a known candy fiend, stepped out in cleats printed with Skittles, for which he was fined $10,000.
As opposed to, say, the NBA, where shoes can be any combination of white, black, gray or team colors, the NFL has stricter rules on what can be worn on the playing field.
According to Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, footwear is decided by July 1 each year, and the dominant base color can be black or white. After the team selects dominant and secondary accent colors, each player can only choose from cleats that have been previously approved by the league. Come game day, the uniform police are on patrol. “Former players are on the field at every game inspecting the players,” McCarthy said. “Fines are donated to charities that benefit former players.”
Along with Lynch, other players who have been fined this season include Louis Delmas, a safety for the Detroit Lions, who wore the wrong color socks ($5,250); Brandon Spikes, a New England Patriots linebacker, who was fined twice ($7,875 and $10,500) for wearing red cleats two games in a row.
Newton, meanwhile, has found a way to skirt the rules without running afoul of the league. About a year ago, and with his design input, he began wearing custom Under Armour cleats in Superman colors, but only during the pregame warm-up.
According to Under Armour, which has sponsored Newton since before his NFL debut in 2011, the league allows players to wear different cleats up to 90 minutes before kickoff, said Matt Mirchin, the brand’s senior vice president for global marketing. Otherwise, any cleats must be submitted to the NFL nine months ahead for approval, Mirchin said.
“It may not be legal to wear for the game, but – and this is an old cliché with a lot of athletes – ‘If I look good, I’ll play good,’ ” Newton said.
“It was really a statement,” he added. “When I initially saw them, I was like: ‘What are people going to think? Is this going to rub the people the wrong way?’ But I’ve been getting nothing but love. It’s pretty cool to be just affiliated with this type of press.” (Newton was fined $10,000 this season for wearing Under Armour visor clips, but he said he had worn them for function, not fashion.)
The Belk line
Tickled by the fashion attention (“I want to be unique…” he said), he pushed it further this season: wearing pregame cleats featuring the Superman logo, the Incredible Hulk, and on Dec. 1, Batman, which were lauded on sports and social media sites. It also didn’t hurt that Newton threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-6 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But there is more to come on the fashion front for Newton. This spring, he debuted his menswear line, Made Cam Newton, for the “modern, Southern gentleman,” sold exclusively at Belk. He often wears his designs for the postgame news conferences, especially the three-piece suits.
“I do it right,” he said. “It’s the player’s option though. Another player may say, ‘I’m a dressed-down type player.’ My option is I want this to be perceived as Cam Newton.”
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