LOS ANGELES – If there is a silver lining to the dark clouds of the Artsakh defeat, it is the strong support for Armenia demonstrated publicly by prominent Armenians and non-Armenians during this crisis. One unexpected arena for this in the US is that of professional football. The National Football League (NFL) conducts a My Cause My Cleats campaign, in which custom sneakers or cleats can be worn on the field before final auction for philanthropic purposes. Berj Najarian, director of football/head coach administration of the New England Patriots, has a pair of Armenian-themed shoes which were shown off on the field by quarterback Cam Newton after the December 6 Patriots-Chargers game in Los Angeles. Proceeds go to the Armenia Fund, and as of December 8, their auction price had surpassed that of all others in the campaign.
The Patriots have shown support to Armenia and the Armenians on multiple occasion. Coach Bill Belichick wore an Armenian flag pin and Najarian was able to bring up the Armenian Genocide with President Barack Obama during a White House visit in 2015. During the recent Karabakh war, Belichick issued an encouraging statement to Armenians and on November 18, declared he hoped the US would take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for their deadly attacks on Armenians. Several Patriots players have made their own statements, including Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater. They can be seen on Najarian’s Instagram account. The fact that these players have large numbers of followers and their friends, like Tom Brady, visit Najarian’s Instagram postings, gives their statements great visibility.
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