The Pittsburgh Steelers managed a crazy road upset of the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football, but before the game, an interesting story popped up. ESPN's Lisa Salters reported that Williams had contacted the NFL about wearing pink throughout the year to honor his mother, who passed away from breast cancer. The NFL has teams and officials wear pink during October (Breast Cancer Awareness month), but told Williams he could not do it outside the month. Williams decided instead to streak his hair pink last year, and is continuing with it this year.
Naturally there was some outrage over this, but it was not surprising news. The NFL fines players for uniform violations, but even beyond that, they do not allow individual expression that impacts the uniform. In 2014, Brandon Marshall wore lime green cleats to raise awareness for Mental Health Awareness Week. He was fined $10,500. He matched the fine and donated it to a mental health charity. In 2002, Peyton Manning requested permission to wear black high-top cleats to honor Johnny Unitas a week after his death. He was denied, and informed that if he did wear them he would face a higher than normal fine because he was formally denied permission.
The NFL has done what it can to stomp out individuality. They will promote the heck out of individual players, but when it comes to individual expression, that's a no-no. The NFL gets the "No Fun League" moniker over the penalties for in-game celebrations, and to a certain degree, these denials of uniform requests fall under that. It is about control. The league cannot control everything players do, but this is an instance where they can impose their will.
It is their prerogative, and I get the desire to retain control on this. It's odd though because it would in fact provide greater PR than the PR attempts the league currently does. The league provides money to charity during Breast Cancer Awareness month, but I view it as more about the PR of appearing to care about women, than actually caring about women. If the NFL truly cared about women, a lot of things would be different in this league.