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Friday, September 13, 2002
Updated: September 15, 1:07 PM ET
NFL says no to Manning's black hightops

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL denied a request from Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to wear black hightop shoes for Sunday's home game against the Miami Dolphins.

A Fitting Tribute?
After the Baltimore Colts left for Indiana and became the Indianapolis Colts, Johnny Unitas adopted the Baltimore Ravens as his own team.

Fans in Baltimore and beyond would like to see the team return the favor. They are signing an Internet petition to change the name of the Ravens' stadium to Johnny Unitas Memorial Stadium following the death Wednesday of the legendary Colts quarterback.

The stadium is called Ravens Stadium after the team reacquired naming rights from PSINet Inc. after the Internet company went bankrupt.
-- ESPN.com news services

Manning made the request to honor former Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, who died of a heart attack Wednesday in Baltimore at the age of 69. Unitas wore trademark hightop black shoes throughout his NFL career.

The league said in a statement Friday that no team other than the Baltimore Ravens will be allowed to wear a patch or armband on their uniforms during Sunday's games to honor Unitas.

Manning would have been fined $25,000 for wearing the black shoes, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports.

Teams throughout the league will hold a moment of silence prior to the kickoff of all games Sunday, according to a statement from commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

League spokesman Steve Alic said a similar situation arose in 1999, when former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton died of a liver ailment.

Several players, including St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk, wanted to change jersey numbers to Payton's familiar 34 to honor the NFL's career rushing leader. But only the Chicago Bears, Payton's former team, were allowed to wear patches or armbands in remembrance.

Both Manning, who already ordered four pairs of the black hightops, and team president Bill Polian said they understand the league's decision. But that didn't change their feelings.

"Somebody's passed away. I don't want to create a controversy over it,'' Manning said. "I did talk to one of (Unitas') sons, Joe, last night. He said he thought that it would be great, he'd love it.

"But the league called Bill this morning and said absolutely not. It would result in a horrendous fine, so Bill just said that he would recommend that I don't do it.''

Polian agreed with Manning, although he was disappointed in the league's decision.

"It was Peyton's intention to do the right thing for a man who's done magnificent things for the NFL,'' Polian said. "How that squares with not being allowed to do it is beyond me, but I don't make those decisions.''