A league that scrutinizes everything from its players’ sleeves to their socks is allowing them to go wild with their shoes this weekend.
Players are permitted to call attention to their foundations, favorite charities and anything else they support via their footwear. The one-week amnesty granted by the NFL, or “No Fun League” as critics have called it, has meant a lot of work for a small design company in Silver Spring, Md., that’s working on cleats for 35 clients, including 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith.
“We put in about a 15-hour day (Tuesday) and we’ll do the same today,” artist David Zambrano said.
Zambrano and his partner, Mohammed Gafar, must come up with a design and color scheme for each pair. He said the application for every pair takes about eight hours.
“They’ve got to be able to stand up to the wear and tear these guys put them through,” he said.
It’s probably the only time you can do it and not have to worry about getting fined. So that’s pretty cool.
Torrey Smith, 49ers wide receiver
The shoes are shipped at the end of the week so they’re in the teams’ equipment room by Sunday.
One of their clients is former 49ers and current Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, who is showing off his Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts on Sunday. One side of his cleats features painting implements – a paintbrush, a tube of paint – and the other an example of contemporary art.
Smith’s shoes were more of a challenge, Zambrano said, because Smith is involved in so many pursuits: The Torrey Smith Family Fund, which benefits children in under-served communities; Show Your Soft Side, which combats animal abuse; and the 49ers Foundation, the team’s charitable arm.
Zambrano said Smith’s personal foundation will be featured on one shoe; the two others will be fused on the second.
Around the league, more than 500 players will take advantage of the program. Other 49ers who are participating include guard Zane Beadles, linebacker Eli Harold, tight end Vance McDonald and linebacker Michael Wilhoite.
Beadles’ cleats will highlight the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation, which benefits children dealing with medical issues such as pediatric cancer.
Beadles said he’s lost family members to cancer and also was inspired by a 6-year-old boy named Ryker Fox, who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor that eventually took his life. Fox was a big Utah fan and visited the team when Beadles played there.
“He just kept coming back,” Beadles said. “He was in the locker room with us before games. We got to know him well.”
500 NFL players participating in this weekend’s custom cleats display for causes of their choice
Beadles warns his shoes won’t be very elaborate – “I don’t have the crazy cleat hookups some of the other guys have” – but the gold color is emblematic of childhood cancer awareness.
All of the 49ers said the cleat program was a nice way to raise the profile of their causes.
“It’s probably the only time you can do it and not have to worry about getting fined,” Smith said. “So that’s pretty cool.”