NFL Plans To Allow Social Justice Decals On Helmets

As first reported on Tuesday morning by Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, the NFL plans to allow players to wear helmet decals that bear the name or initials of victims of police brutality and systemic racism during the 2020 season.

League commissioner Roger Goodell has been working with the NFL Players Association in recent weeks to compile a list of names, and it will be up to the individual players if they want to wear the decals on their helmet – though teams could ultimately decide to act as a whole if they so choose.

Unlike the NBA, which will allow players to wear pre-approved slogans on their jerseys in place of their names during the league’s restart later this month, the NFL will simply stick to names and initials. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, whose deaths by police sparked nationwide protests this spring, are among those expected to be honored by the league.

The NFL already allows teams to wear helmet decals in honor of former players, coaches and owners who have passed away, as well as on special occasions, such as when the then-Oakland Raiders wore “Vegas Strong” decals following the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 concert-goers in 2017; when 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; when the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wore a “One Florida” decal in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in 2017; when the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals sported a “One Carolina” decal after Hurricane Florence dumped catastrophic rainfall on North and South Carolina in 2018; when the entire NFL wore decals spotlighting the various branch of the armed forces in 2018; and when the Dallas 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.

The NFL has notably allowed personal expressions on cleats during its My Cause, My Cleats campaign. But Tuesday’s news marks a significant departure from league precedent on social matters, as the NFL denied the Cowboys’ request to wear a helmet sticker during the 2016 season in honor of the five police officers who were shot and killed by a sniper during a protest against police brutality in downtown Dallas that summer. 

“There are so many wonderful, wonderful causes, the league has to be careful,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said after the NFL made its ruling. “If you allow one, then what do you do about every team that has a great reason to have something on their helmets?”

In early June, the NFL announced it will commit $250 million over 10 years to a fund to combat racism and injustices faced by African-Americans. The league is also planning to play “Life Every Voice and Sing” – which is considered the black national anthem – before every Week 1 game this season.

Photo via the National Football League, Las Vegas Raiders, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys.