Chris Mortensen Archive
NFL thwarts Manning in attempt to honor Unitas

Sept. 17
Ravens QB Chris Redman did what Colts QB Peyton Manning wanted to do, but Redman's black high-top cleats won't cost him nearly as much as it would have Manning.

Redman
Redman

Manning
Manning

Redman probably faces a first-time uniform violation of $5,000 for wearing black high-tops in Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in salute to Johnny Unitas, who died of a heart attack last week.

Manning was told by a club official -- after speaking with a league authority -- that he would face a fine of at least $25,000 if he defied the edict by wearing the black shoes. A league spokesman denied that a specific $25,000 fine was threatened, but conceded that the Colts were told that it would be a steeper fine than normal because Manning had been formally denied permission.

In other words, don't ask.

Redman privately approached a Ravens official with his desire to honor Unitas. Instead of seeking league approval, the quarterback was told to "just do it" without saying anything. Manning went the route of protocol by seeking permission from the NFL. Once it became public with a rejection, the lines were drawn.

"That was the mistake -- if (Manning) just wears the shoes without any fanfare, this is a different deal," a league official said.

Manning was willing to pay any amount of fine, sources said, but felt the public controversy was a dishonor to Unitas.

The league's uniform policy stipulates that a team must declare itself a "black shoe" team or "white shoe" team prior to the season. Both the Colts and the Ravens chose white shoes. Had they selected black shoes, there would have been no violation.

Both Redman and Manning had personal affection for Unitas. Redman, like Unitas, was a former Louisville quarterback and was counseled frequently by the former Colt great in recent years. Manning said Unitas was an influence on his father Archie, a onetime NFL great.

Manning also was the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation's top collegiate quarterback in 1998. At the ceremonies, Manning presented Unitas with a pair of his Tennessee black high-tops (size 14).

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