Los Angeles Chargers Star Antonio Gates to Promote Lupus Awareness with Custom Cleats
Antonio Gates’ exceptional combination of bodily strength and gifted hands have propelled him to success as one of the NFL’s most highly-decorated tight ends— a position that combines the roles of offensive lineman and wide receiver.
But this Sunday, Gates’ footwear will be the focus. He plans to wear custom-designed cleats to promote lupus awareness as part of the league’s My Cause My Cleats campaign. This is the second year the NFL has staged the campaign, which allows players from across the league to wear special cleats that express causes near and dear to their hearts.
Gates, an eight-time Pro Bowler and the NFL’s all-time touchdown leader for tight ends, is aiming to bring greater attention to the devastating impact of lupus. For Gates, the disease is personal—his sister, Pam, died from lupus three years ago after an extended battle for her life.
"This is a cause that is close to my heart, and I feel it really deserves more attention,” said Gates. “It’s a special week for all players, and I’m proud to support the Lupus Foundation of America to help increase lupus awareness and raise funds for lupus research. I’ve been looking forward to this game so I can pay tribute to my sister and her life."
Gates and Pam had a very close relationship. Throughout Pam’s childhood, Gates enjoyed playing the role of big brother, always trying to set an example for his younger sister. When he entered the NFL and the demanding time constraints of professional football made it difficult to visit home, Pam would frequently fly from their hometown of Detroit to see him in San Diego.
In 2013, when Pam’s complications from lupus began to worsen, Gates would often leave straight from road games to spend time with hi
s ailing sister. After suffering a second heart attack the following year, Pam slipped into a coma. She passed away a few weeks later when she was only 22 years old. Gates and the rest of the family were at her bedside during her final moments. Today, Gates is still coming to grips with the loss of the little sister he always tried to watch over.
“Pam was the baby in the family. I would buy her anything she wanted,” said Gates. “I remember growing up my dad always sending me to the store to get her what she wanted. She would at first ask my dad and he would have me go get it for her because I was her big brother. That’s just how it was and I was always there to protect her and take care of her.”
For Gates, the opportunity to wear custom-designed cleats on Sunday is a way to further his sister’s memory and spread lupus awareness.
He worked with the Lupus Foundation of America and Kreative Custom Kicks to design a pair of eye-catching purple cleats to represent the lupus community. They prominently feature Pam’s name and the Foundation’s logo, along with question marks emblazoned on the heels and “Solve The Cruel Mystery” printed across the toes as a call to support the Foundation’s work to bring an end to lupus and support the millions of people impacted by this devastating disease.
Given that the Los Angeles Chargers’ team colors are navy, gold and powder blue, Gates’ purple cleats are bound to pop when the game kicks off at 1:05 p.m. PST on CBS.
You can bid for his cleats on December 5, with all proceeds going to the Lupus Foundation of America to support lupus research.