Being able to express individuality as an athlete has undoubtedly been one of the catalysts that helped evaporate the thin line between entertainment and sports.
While generally speaking individuality had been frowned upon, that phenomenon hasn’t necessarily permeated the world of sports.
Expressing individuality has become a lucrative business and revolutionized how athletes are marketed, and also made the games more globally appealing than ever before.
This phenomenon of expressing individual personality has been an evolutionary process.
Reading Associated Press columnist Arnie Stapelton’s “Cause For Cleats” article, where more than 1,000 players took part wearing their calico cleats to raise funds for various causes, was reminiscent of pioneers like Joe Namath, who started expressing individuality in the maverick AFL by wearing white shoes.
Thank you, former Jets’ equipment manager Bill Hampton, who encouraged Namath to be rebellious.
While many chose various national and politically-charged causes, former Tennessee Titans first-round pick and Oakland Raiders’ backup quarterback Marcus Mariota chose to represent the islands.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Mariota’s cleat design — while the colors are what Duck fans like to see — is supporting the Hawai‘i Foodbank.
No doubt this should be heralded as an endearing move by Mariota, because he spoke up for a group of people in the islands that has largely been ignored during this pandemic: the furloughed workers and thousands of people in Hawai‘i who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.
The shoes, a combination reminiscent of his playing days in Oregon and a dash of his island roots, may not be the flashy game shoes that Russell Wilson’s circa hip hop ‘80s style shoes showcased, but he raised awareness to show that there are a number of people in the islands who desperately need help during this time.
It is people like Namath, Billie “White Shoes” Johnson and decadent stars like Deion Sanders who paved the way for the modern era’s expression of individuality.
The difference is today’s player isn’t just doing it to make themself marketable. Players like Mariota and Wilson are utilizing this platform to raise awareness for something greater than themselves.
The positive by-product of the evolution of individuality is that the selfless, socially-conscious players of today use the stage they are given to help someone besides themselves.
Kudos to Mariotta for raising awareness and funds for those in Hawai‘i who are desperately in need to sustain themselves in an economy ravaged in the COVID-19 world.
Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.