My Cause My Cleats is an annual NFL campaign to allow players, coaches and staff to support a cause of their choice with uniquely designed game cleats, and for the first time there are multiple players in one year who have selected an LGBTQ cause.

Cleveland Browns FB Johnny Stanton selected Athlete Ally as the focus of his cleats — and the beneficiary of their sale — putting a bold pride rainbow flag front and center when he wears them:

Johnny Stanton has covered his My Cause My Cleats with the pride rainbow flag.

“I wanted to back a cause that was important to me as an athlete,” Stanton told Outsports. “The fact that some people don’t feel comfortable enough in their own identity to participate in sports breaks my heart. No one should feel unwelcome on the field or the court. If just one person being an ally can help them feel more comfortable, then I’m happy to be that person.”

Stanton has shared his support for the LGBTQ community on social media since at least 2018.

It’s a cause with a personal connection for Stanton. He said his uncle, Patrick Stanton, was an Olympic hopeful swimmer until the 1980 boycott of those Moscow Olympics.

“He never felt comfortable enough to come out while he was swimming,” Stanton said. “I don’t want the athletes coming out today to feel like they can’t be themselves.”

One of those athletes, of course, is Carl Nassib, the Las Vegas Raiders defensive end who came out publicly earlier this year. Nassib has selected The Trevor Project for his cleats. His mention of The Trevor Project in his coming-out video has raised hundreds of thousand or millions of dollars for the organization.

Only one NFL player before them that we know of — Miami Dolphins WR Preston Williams — has previously selected an LGBTQ-specific cause to support with his cleats.

While it’s certainly nice to see these two players choosing an LGBTQ cause to support, it’s also deeply discouraging that it is only two players. In fact, there are so few players supporting the LGBTQ community that the NFL doesn’t even list it under “other causes” supported by the campaign in its main graphic for the campaign.

Conversely, at least 29 players chose animals or animal rights as their cause.

While not LGBTQ-specific, several players chose anti-bullying efforts that include support of LGBTQ people as part of their work, including Marquis Haynes of the Carolina Panthers, Connor Williams of the Dallas Cowboys and Eric Stokes of the Green Bay Packers.

San Francisco 49ers LB Fred Warner chose Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which focuses on mental health in youth.

The overall participation in the My Cause My Cleats campaign seems to be down from previous years, with various teams featuring only 10 to 15 players counting themselves as part of the effort.

This year the display of cleats is schedule for this week, the NFL’s 2021 week 13.