This Sunday will mark the end not only of the NFL season, but also of the most exciting year of cleat watching in league history. More than ever, players pushed for opportunities to wear attention-grabbing cleats—the majority customized through relationships forged with independent artists. Tuning into see what Von Miller, Odell Beckham, and Cam Newton were wearing was sometimes just as exciting as the actual games.
Cleat watching has its hurdles, though. Namely, the NFL's extra-strict uniform policy. According to league rules, each team must choose a single cleat color for players to wear throughout the entire season, along with a secondary team color and a third color for accents. While football is the ultimate team sport, there are individuals who wouldn't mind the freedom to be independent with their footwear from time to time.
The workaround for most players this season was to wear the customs for photo ops during pregame warm-ups, then switch to a team-oriented pair for the game. Then, the league made what it considered to be a compromise by allowing all players to wear custom cleats during Week 13 games, as long as they were pre-approved and represented a personal cause. The #MyCauseMyCleats campaign appeared to be an overall success and the door was left open for similar campaigns in the future.
However, there were still a few occasions when players—particularly wide receivers with big personalities—challenged the rule book. As the No Fun League, the NFL responded by handing out fines, requesting mid-game changes, and even threatening to bench players who wouldn't comply. Ahead of this weekend's finale, take a look at these five players who received fines for wearing "inappropriate" cleats this season.