The Carolina Panthers are fighting for their lives. With their divisional rival, the New Orleans Saints, clinching the NFC South and a playoff spot in the Thanksgiving Day win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers are still in the hunt – but barely. Their Dec. 8th game against the Falcons could mean the difference between a playoff berth of their own or waiting until next season. Even with so much riding on their next few games, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has something else on his mind: America's wounded warriors.
And he's all set to raise money and support for the Wounded Warrior Project through the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats campaign.
Even though the NFL's Salute to Service month has passed, the spirit of honoring veterans of the U.S. military never stops. For the fourth year in a row, the NFL and its Salute to Service partner, USAA, are teaming up to support veterans through the annual philanthropic events. In Week 14, NFL players from around the league choose a cause to celebrate and support. Coaches and players have commissioned special cleats to be worn in support of these causes that will be worn during the game and then auctioned off for their charities. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey's cleats will support the Wounded Warrior Project.
The cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir, who has custom made cleats in previous years for players like the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, who honored deceased NFL player and Army ranger Pat Tillman with his 2018 My Cause My Cleats campaign.
McCaffrey greets military members before each home game.
"It really hit me when they told me that watching football was their getaway.... you wanna put on a show for them. It makes football more than just a game." McCaffrey told USAA. "It'll definitely be a constant reminder for me of why I play and who I play for."
But McCaffrey's support doesn't stop at the cleats. The running back and the Carolina Panthers hosted a few wounded warriors at their offices and at the stadium earlier in 2019. He took the veterans through a typical day as a Panthers football player, from the morning meeting at 8:00 a.m. and through a visit to the team locker room. They then went out to the playing field and threw a football around to talk shop.
"That's the reason why we're out there, fighting the fight," one veteran said, admiring the Panthers playing field. "So stateside can be like this."
"Our missions are different," said another vet of McCaffrey. "But at the end of the day, he respects what we do and we're fans of what he does. Picking the Wounded Warrior Project shows you the kind of character that he has."
The cleats McCaffrey will wear on Week 14 will honor all five military branches. On one shoe, five members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are featured, saluting in uniform. On the other shoe, the featured prominently is the distinctive black-and-white logo of the Wounded Warrior Project one half and an NFL game field on the other, with the stars and stripes centered in midfield and a large THANK YOU in the watching crowd.
If you like McCaffrey's cleats, anyone is able to bid on the shoes when auctioned off. One hundred percent of the money raised goes toward the cause designed on the cleats.