Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Players, Coaches Take a Stand Against Social Injustice for My Cause, My Cleats

Eight Buccaneers players and three coaches will be representing charities that are focused in social justice efforts for the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats initiative this year.

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Empower.

Educate.

End racism.

Those are a few of the words that will appear on the cleats and shoes of Buccaneers players and staff members on Sunday in support of social justice as part of the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats initiative.

Twenty percent of players league-wide are supporting social justice efforts this year on their cleats. Included in that 20% are Buccaneers players like safety Mike Edwards, cornerbacks Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Ryan Smith, running back Ronald Jones II, guard Aaron Stinnie, linebacker Cam Gill and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Will Gholston and Benning Potoa'e.

In fact, Gholston is supporting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation as it looks to further the impact of its Social Justice Initiative. Specifically, he's listing the names of 25 local middle school students that are currently taking part in the Buccaneers Youth Leadership Program, which places students with Buccaneers staff mentors, while also allowing them to develop and foster relationships with Buccaneers players to make a lasting positive impact in their lives.

The program was launched in collaboration with Safe & Sound Hillsborough, a local organization that works to develop strong families, safe schools and healthy neighborhoods. Cornerback Carlton Davis, a member of the team's Social Justice Player Board who has lost friends to gun violence and has been one of the leading participants in this youth engagement effort, will wear cleats supporting the local group.

The Youth Leadership Program is one of a host of programs and events the Social Justice Initiative has taken part in over the last year. In 2020 alone, staff, coaches and 24 players have contributed nearly $150,000 in donations to social justice causes that the Social Justice Fund has, in turn, matched for a total of nearly $300,000 going towards efforts to better the community.

Multiple players are also supporting RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.

"The organization itself definitely goes hand-in-hand with how I've been trying to attack and approach things that have been going on this year, which is using my platform as an athlete and also as a black male in America to be to get it out there that racism and racial injustice is still going on in America every single day," said Stinnie. "Being an athlete, the platform that I have is a very good one to use to attack things that you feel are important in this world and in society."

Stinnie grew up in Virginia, where he says he first felt the effects of racism at the age of six. It's part of how Stinnie and many other Black men have to live their everyday lives, he said. Stinnie and his father had a conversation recently about a new car he purchased and how being a young, Black man driving a nice vehicle could be viewed. There's a risk there that doesn't exist for other parts of the population.

Edwards noted he hadn't encountered anything that he couldn't deal with thus far in his life, but he has conversations with his friends to this day about how he's taught to operate differently than perhaps his white counterparts in certain situations, or how his mother constantly worries about him just going about his daily life. It's little things like that which still need to be talked about - and he hopes that in showcasing the RISE organization on his cleats, it can help start and facilitate conversations that lead to an understanding of the issues.

"It gets people to look and see that oh, Mike Edwards is supporting this cause, or such and such is supporting this cause, maybe I should take a look at it," said Edwards.

Bucs players aren't alone in raising awareness on social justice issues. Assistant Head Coach and Run-Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin, Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles and Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong will also be wearing specially-designed sneakers on gameday.

"It was important to me to support anything trying to make a difference, even in a small way, to make the country better," said Bowles.

He also acknowledged the importance of supporting his players and encouraging their efforts.

"They look at you a little differently just from a human standpoint," Bowles continued. "Not that they didn't before, but it's important for a player-coach relationship that they know you stand for something more than just what's on the field and being a robotic kind of coach. They're the younger generation and it's important to support them in that way."

Bowles specified exactly what he wanted on his gameday sneakers, as did Goodwin – or Goodie, as he's known around AdventHealth Training Center. He included "Empower, Educate and End Racism" specifically on his shoes not only for his players but for his own children.

"To me, especially when you think about young kids now, it's so important," said Goodie. "For instance, I'm trying to push my son and empower him to be a beacon of change when it comes to race relations political issues. We have to empower youth to do things that will change the world."

The Buccaneers have collaborated with multiple organizations, including RISE and Safe & Sound Hillsborough, for social justice programming this year to provide greater understanding and education when it comes to social issues. It is all a part of the aforementioned larger initiative by the organization that launched in 2018 with a $1,000,000 Social Justice Fund commitment by the Glazer family. The program itself is directed by Buccaneers players and was created to break down barriers to racial and social equality with youth empowerment, police relations, criminal justice reform and workforce development as the main areas of focus of the year-round platform.

View pictures of the cleats and foundations represented by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during week 14.

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