Bengals to participate in NFL’s ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ initiative

When Carlos Dunlap thinks back to his childhood and some of the ups and downs he experienced, nothing compares to what many kids today seem to be going through.

The Cincinnati Bengals defensive end said he is concerned by the number of child suicides reaching the news lately as a result of bullying.

»RELATED: Tom Archdeacon on Carlos Dunlap’s anti-bullying efforts

That’s why Dunlap will be pushing an anti-bullying message with his shoes in the Bengals’ game against the Steelers on Monday night as part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative. One of his cleats features drawings of people saying “Bullying isn’t cool” and “Stop bullying,” and the other shoe has a football over the Nike swoosh with “anti-bullying” inscribed above it.

"Bullying sadly is a huge trend now in schools, and now more so than ever kids are committing suicide because of the effects of being bullied," said Dunlap, who has been doing an anti-bullying literacy tour with kids at road games in the AFC and in Cincinnati. "It happened here in Cincinnati with Gabriel Taye and another time in Charleston, South Carolina, with a young lady and both times they were getting bullied in school over a period of time. … Those kids felt they were alone and decided to take their own life.

»RELATED: What Marvin Lewis said this week about Steelers game

“With that happening, I thought about my own childhood and the things I was thinking about at their ages and the last thing I could think of was trying to brainstorm ways to take my own life, so I can’t imagine what they were going through to want to plan something like that out. That’s why I am taking a stand against bullying.”

The “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative allows players around the league to wear special shoes this week showcasing charities and movements they are passionate about, and Dunlap is one of about a dozen Bengals expected to participate.

Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was still waiting for his custom cleats to arrive Thursday, but said he ordered two or three pairs to choose from to promote his 21 Kids foundation, which seeks to improve public health, promote educational opportunities and enhance community development efforts, among other things, in his hometown of Gadsden, Alabama.

»RELATED: Mixon makes changes after Bell tweets

“Right now we have a drug problem in my hometown,” Kirkpatrick said. “Kids are overdosing, so that’s my focus right now. I’ve talked to a few preachers back home and over the last two weeks we’ve had eight kids die. I’m just trying to educate these kids on how bad this epidemic is right now.”

Quarterback Andy Dalton is taking advantage of the opportunity to promote his foundation but also is using his cleats to remember the kids his foundation has touched. They are a source of motivation for him as Cincinnati (5-6) tries to extend its win streak to three games and move closer to a playoff spot.

»RELATED: What Andy Dalton said during Steelers week press conference

Dalton’s cleats lists the first name of five kids he has gotten to know well through his foundation, and the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation logo is featured prominently. The insoles also have names of other kids his foundation has impacted.

“Last year it was just the logo (on the cleats), but this year I felt I could add some names to it, just to show support to a lot of the families and a lot of kids,” Dalton said.

The foundation has provided more than $500,000 in grants to help more than 200 families of sick or special needs children to pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance.

One of the kids honored on the outside of Dalton’s cleats, Micah, is from Texas and a big fan of TCU, where Dalton played in college. William is a child who has been on Dalton’s mind lately after recently seeing him during a visit at the zoo.

“Guys have fun with it (“My Cause, My Cleats”), but also it’s cool to see what so many guys across the league support,” Dalton said. “It’s cool to see where their passion is and where they want to help and serve other people.”

About the Author