In the two weeks since George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, numerous collegiate and professional athletes and coaches have spoken out about racial injustices in our communities.
That includes Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner, who recently suggested the NFL allow teams to wear helmet decals that show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
There is somewhat of a precedent when it comes to such matters, as the Dallas Cowboys planned to wear a helmet sticker during the 2016 season in honor of the five police offers who were shot and killed by a sniper during a protest against police brutality in downtown Dallas that summer. The NFL denied their request, though, and the decals were only seen during training camp.
“There are so many wonderful, wonderful causes, the league has to be careful,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said at the time. “If you allow one, then what do you do about every team that has a great reason to have something on their helmets?”
The league requires every team to wear at least two helmet decals, including the NFL shield and the American flag. The former is notably replaced, though, when the league promotes its Crucial Catch and Salute to Service campaigns in October and November, respectively.
Teams have long been allowed to wear special decals in honor of former players, coaches and owners who have passed away, as well. But there are also other instances when the league has permitted teams to venture outside of their normal confines.
Such occasions include when the then-Oakland Raiders wore “Vegas Strong” decals following the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 concert-goers in 2017; the New Orleans Saints donned a “FATS” decal as a tribute to the late rock-and-roll pioneer Fats Domino following his death in 2017; the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wore a “One Florida” decal in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in 2017; the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals sported a “One Carolina” decal after Hurricane Florence dumped catastrophic rainfall on North and South Carolina in 2018; the entire NFL wore decals spotlighting the various branch of the armed forces in 2018; and the Cowboys and New York Giants applied decals of each player’s alma mater as a way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football’s first game in 2019.
Of course, none of those situations were as contentious as the current state of affairs. But with commissioner Roger Goodell recently admitting to “not listening to players” in the past, maybe the NFL will also consider relaxing its uniform policy to allow them to peacefully protest this fall.
Photos via the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders.