This coming Sunday during the Bucs game against the Carolina Panthers, players will be wearing customized cleats for a charity of their choice as part of the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats Campaign. First-round pick Vita Vea decided this year to go all in on the team that took its chance on him, choosing to represent the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation on his cleats.
"There are so many things to choose from but I feel like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation supports a wide variety of things around the community," Vea said about his decision. "I feel like instead of trying to pick multiple things, I can pick our Foundation and it represents so many things."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation supports a variety of different efforts around the Tampa Bay community. Its mission is to uplift the community, inspire youth and drive social change through programs that enrich the lives of families in the region.
The Foundation connects with Bay area youth through the public school system in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties with its Jr. Bucs Program. Through a brand new fitness program, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation impacts over 130,000 elementary students in both counties, providing them with educational activities that infuse football skills and monthly player-led video drills to add into current physical education curriculum.
Additionally, the Foundation supports the Jr. Bucs Middle School Flag Football Program that enhances curriculum for one of the fastest growing sports in the state for 70,000 middle school students by providing flag kits, equipment and instruction.
Another focus of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation is to create meaningful social change and thus, the player-led Social Justice Initiative was born. It includes monthly events focused on youth empowerment, police relations, criminal justice reform, racial equality and workforce development. The initiative will be supported by the newly-established Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Social Justice Fund, a campaign driven by Buccaneers players and matching contributions from the team that will commit more than $1 million to Tampa Bay-area charitable organizations.
Vea has gotten to see some of the work firsthand through his participation in the Bucs Rookie Club, during which the players have gotten hands-on experience with the charitable organizations the Foundation is aiming to help.
"We went to Metropolitan Ministries with the Rookie Club and Moffitt Cancer Center," Vea said of the events that inspired him to get more involved with the Foundation. "We did trick-or-treating with the patients and stuff like that. Going into the community and trying to bring a smile to people's faces and spread positivity."
Positivity might as well be Vea's middle name. He's rarely seen without a big smile on his own face, so it's fitting he sees part of the Foundation's mission as spreading positivity. That's why he was excited about the chance to participate in the My Cause, My Cleats Campaign that he had seen from afar as a way to give back to another program that's had an impact on him personally.
"It gives us a way to pay it forward and use our platform."
To check out Vea's or any of the other 50 players' cleats, check them out here.