Sportress of Blogitude

Will Devon Still’s ‘Leah Strong’ eye black help Cam Heyward’s appeal?


Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward was fined $5,787 for featuring a message on his eye black in tribute of his late father during a “Monday Night Football” match-up with the San Diego Chargers last week. On Sunday, despite the original fine, Heyward again had “Iron” and “Head” written upon his eye black, meaning he is likely to be subjected to another fine, this time $11,576, for a repeat offense.

The message was in tribute to the nickname of his father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, a former NFL player who passed away in 2006 after battling cancer.

Heyward has appealed the original fine and the hearing is set for Tuesday. One argument that should bolster Heyward’s case is how the NFL chose not fine Devon Still last season for his eye black tribute to his ailing young daughter Leah.

Heyward reportedly has consulted Still regarding the issue and appeal.

The then-Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman — he is currently a free agent — on multiple occasions featured the message “Leah Strong” on his eye black last season as his daughter underwent treatment for Stage 4 neuroblastoma. Given that the NFL opted not to fine Still should provide Heyward with the argument that his fine (or fines) stand in stark contrast to the position held by the league last season.

Heyward said he looks forward to explaining his position to the league during the appeal hearing.

“I care about this league, but I also care about people who are struggling,” Heyward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via ESPN. “I understand the struggles they go through. My dad went through that struggle, and I saw it every day.”

The NFL obviously is in a tough spot in this case. The league doesn’t want to put itself in a disadvantageous position in future efforts to enforce its uniform policy against “personal messages.” But a precedent was set in how the league handled Still’s use of eye black to broadcast a message in tribute to his daughter, and Heyward honoring his late father through the same means isn’t all that different.