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Pittsburgh Steelers William Gay: NFL should work with players to promote causes

William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence. Now, the Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback is speaking up about his crusade and a better way forward for the NFL.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

After Week 7, William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence, an issue close to his heart. When Gay was a young boy, his mother was killed by her partner. Gay was not surprised to receive the $5,787 fine. After all, the NFL has very clear rules relating to uniforms.

Gay recently wrote a piece about his experience for Sports Illustrated describing his experience and his purpose.

It's not that I don't understand the value of money, and it's not that I'm trying to stir trouble. When I wore those purple cleats, I was standing for something much larger than a football game. October is Domestic Violence awareness month, and purple is the official color for the cause. When I was 8, I lost my mother. She was shot three times by my stepfather, fatally, before he also killed himself. My mother didn't know she was in an abusive relationship until it was too late; she didn't know what domestic violence was, let alone how to get help. Awareness, to me, is everything.

Gay's fine wasn't a surprise, and neither is his tireless dedication to raising awareness for domestic violence. The NFL, however, is missing the mark on promoting causes.When Brandon Marshall was a member of the Chicago Bears, he was fined for wearing green shoes to raise awareness for mental illness. This season, Gay's teammates Cameron Heyward and DeAngelo Williams were fined for raising awareness for cancer in ways the league had not sanctioned.

While Gay's primary focus is domestic violence prevention and awareness, he is also promoting a novel idea to give players a platform for personal causes. While the NFL supports breast cancer awareness and veterans, there is little room for players to support causes that matter to them and support them in meaningful ways. Individual efforts on the part of players would probably resonate more with fans. As it is, the NFL's efforts are met with cynicism, viewed as an example of corporate greed and disingenuous self-promotion.

What is Gay's plan? In his article, Gay broached the idea of an amnesty week for players. During this week, players could support a personal cause in a personal way. After all, according to Gay, "There has to be a solution; a way for the league to work with us for trying to promote good things rather than punish us."