Fashion Designers, NFL Team Up on 50 Footballs for Charity

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
January 26, 2016 Updated: February 1, 2016

NEW YORK—Are you ready for some (bespoke) football? With Super Bowl 50 on the horizon, the NFL and the Council of Fashion Designers of America teamed up to deck out a half-century’s worth of pigskins to raise money for the league’s charitable foundation.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Rebecca Minkoff went with all-around spikes for her ball that would likely make a receiver weep. Her fellow designer, Nicole Miller, picked a Day of the Dead theme with a flowery skull face that had an upside-down heart for a nose.

 (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Betsey Johnson, who marked 50 years in business last year, performed her signature splits at a party Wednesday night unveiling all 50 designer balls. She propped her ball, adorned with little gold flowers, on two red-nailed mannequin hands she had kept in her garden.

“They were kind of freaking people out, especially my granddaughters,” Johnson said of the hands she had pushed into dirt near a rosebush.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Other designers were in the tongue-in-cheek school of football design. Kenneth Cole popped his pigskin into a black high-top shoe. For designer Rachel Roy, the project was an education.

“I can’t even tell you how much fun that was,” she said of her turn as a football designer. “This year I learned a lot about football. My daughter’s boyfriend is a quarterback, a freshman in high school, but he plays varsity, so it’s really important in my family now.”

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Roy wrapped her ball in three white leather strips against gold and black.

Miller did a helmet for the first CFDA-NFL collaboration two years ago. She found designing a football more challenging.

“I always loved Day of the Dead and I do Day of the Dead parties, so it’s perfect,” Miller said.

Is she a fan of the game? “My husband is, so I follow it a little bit. I always root for the underdog,” Miller laughed.

Johnson declared herself a football fan.

“I’m a big football cheerleader,” she said. “I was head cheerleader at Syracuse University with the Orangemen. I saw Ernie Davis play. None of you youngins know who he is.”

Davis, for the record, earned the Heisman Trophy in 1961, becoming the first African-American to win the award. He died of leukemia at age 23, shortly after being drafted out of Syracuse.

Steven Kolb, who heads the CFDA, said his group signed on to collaborate with the NFL in 2014 on designer helmets to mark the Super Bowl held in New Jersey, right in its own backyard. The project was so successful the two organizations agreed on another round for charity to celebrate Super Bowl 50, to be held Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

“The Super Bowl is iconic. It is up there with the Grammys, the Oscars,” Kolb said.

Kolb acknowledged that he doesn’t follow the sport all that much. He, too, will be rooting for the “underdog, always the underdog.”

Minkoff said she wanted to create a football to please her hubby.

“This project was done out of my husband’s love of football. He’s from Seattle, so that’s his team,” she said. “We’re going to be having a Super Bowl party.”

The designer footballs went up for auction Wednesday and will remain up through Feb. 14 at All 50 will be on display in San Francisco from Jan. 30 through Feb. 7. Proceeds from the auction will benefit, among other things, health programs for athletes, youth football and communities that support the game.

Rashad Jennings of the New York Giants was on hand to celebrate the fancy balls. He’s a fashion guy as well as a football player.

“I do enjoy fashion. I think it’s an extension of who you are. People often see your clothes before they hear you speak,” he said.

So who’s going to win Super Bowl 50?

“More than likely the team that’s going to end with the most amount of points, I would say,” Jennings joked. “That would be my guess.”