Why do some NFL players’ helmets say ‘Be Love’ or 'Choose Love' on them?

Bruno Cooke January 17, 2023
Why do some NFL players’ helmets say ‘Be Love’ or 'Choose Love' on them?
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

NFL players have been wearing phrases like “Be Love” and “Choose Love” on their helmets for some time, but not everyone appreciates the positive messaging behind what NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility calls the “social justice helmet decal program.”

Some of those following the Cowboys vs Bucs game have been commenting on the players’ decision to take part in an initiative that allows them to wear custom message on their helmets.

The Athletic writes, of the game in general, that it was “complete domination” – the Cowboys “routed” Tom Brady’s Buccaneers.

It has also prompted some discussion of Brady’s future in the sport. At the age of 45, he is the oldest NFL player in the game this season. But, as several fans of the sport have noted, he’s not as old as George Blanda was when he threw his last pass.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Why do some NFL players’ helmets say ‘Be Love’ or ‘Choose Love’ on them? Meaning explored

The meaning behind the initiative that allows NFL players to wear custom messages on their helmets (such as “Be Love” or “Choose Love”) is to “inspire change,” according to The US Sun’s summary. Specifically, they form part of the Martin Luther King Center’s Be Love campaign.

When the NFL launched the scheme more than three years ago, six decals were available to players.

These were: “End Racism,” “Stop Hate,” “It Takes All Of US,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Inspire change” and “Say Their Stories.”

For the 2022 season, the NFL reportedly added “Choose Love.” They did so due to an increase in gun violence and hate crime across the US, the Sun adds. “Be Love” is the latest addition to the phrases available to players.

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

NFL players with ‘Be Love’ appear to have adapted and universalized ‘Choose Love’

“Be Love” isn’t on the list above, but is similar to “Choose Love,” which was on the original list. For The King Center, Be Love is a movement “born amid the immense uncertainty and global tension of the past year.”

This new decal appears more widespread during this most recent game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys.

And, as Naptown Sports has observed on Twitter, the phrase “Be Love,” at least within the context of messaging on players’ helmets, has a trademark. This is because of its connection to The King Center’s movement.

The King Center invites people to take the Be Love pledge. It involves acknowledging the three core tenets of the movement, and making a personal choice to “be love.”

How have people reacted to the slogans in general?

Not all NFL audiences are in favor of the “Be Love” and similar slogans adorning Tom Brady and his fellow players’ helmets.

“When is the NFL going to discontinue the grade-school slogans,” asks one exasperated Twitter user. They describe the messages as “blah, blah, blah,” and the end zone message as “nonsensical.”

The NFL has also decided to stencil “It Takes All Of Us” and “Inspire Change” into the end zones. This marks the third straight year of doing so, per The US Sun.

Another critic refers to the messaging initiative as “preaching.” They suggest the team members wear their team names on the backs of their helmets, instead. Others, meanwhile, appreciate the initiative. One tweeted, “Remember to ‘Be Love’ just like the helmets say,” with a heart on fire emoji.

What has the NFL itself said about the helmet slogan messaging initiative?

The US Sun quotes NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility as describing the league’s “commitment to social justice” as “as present on field and in stadium across all 32 clubs as it is in communities nationwide.”

“This year,” he reportedly said, “we’re expanding efforts to include the Inspire Change Changemaker Award which will honor a local social justice changemaker from each club market.”

The so-called “social justice helmet decal program” fits into a roster of other initiatives, he also said, per the newspaper. It includes NFL Votes, a grant-making program, and “of course, dedicated Inspire Change weeks.”

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.