Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward has an appeal hearing Tuesday to dispute his fine for honoring his late father with writing on his eye black. He says he hopes to explain to commissioner Roger Goodell the reason for his unapproved tribute.
October is breast cancer awareness month in the NFL, and the league allows players to pay tribute by wearing pink shoes and wristbands during the month. Heyward said Monday that players should be able to raise awareness of other cancers during the month as well.
"A lot of people are struggling with cancer, and that's what my message was," Heyward said Monday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's not just about me and my love for my father. There are a lot of people out there struggling. In a month when breast cancer is honored, I think every type of cancer should be honored as well."
During the appeal hearing, Heyward's side will point out an important precedent set last year: Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still, whose daughter Leah was an inspiration in her battle with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, wore 'Leah Strong' on his eye black several times and was not fined.
"I care about this league, but I also care about people who are struggling. I understand the struggles they go through. My dad went through that struggle, and I saw it every day."Cam Heyward
Heyward began his tribute to his father, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, two weeks ago by wearing eye black with "Iron" under one eye and "Head" under the other. Craig Heyward, a former NFL fullback who retired in 1998, died from a brain tumor in 2006.
On Sunday against the Cardinals, Heyward wore the eye black despite receiving a $5,787 fine last week for violating the NFL's uniform policy. He faces an $11,576 fine for a second violation of rules regarding the display of personal messages.
He said Monday that he plans to continue the eye black tribute at least until the end of this month.
"I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes or upset the league office, but I want to continue to do it, at least for this month," Heyward said, according to the Post-Gazette. "I would love to be able to [do it] this month and make an awareness for all types of cancer.
"I'm very sincere when I say I'm not trying to be someone who is a rebel against the cause or someone who is against everybody. I care about this league, but I also care about people who are struggling. I understand the struggles they go through. My dad went through that struggle, and I saw it every day."
ESPN Staff Writer Jeremy Fowler contributed to this report.