Why do NFL players paint chalk under their eyes?

I see it in football were the players paint black chalk under their eyes, because of “glare”. If that is the case why don’t other sports players do it? I don’t see it in golf or baseball, or hockey? Is it just a gimmick, like war paint or something? I seem to see the Paint on eyes on most of the NFL games?

Daniel … Toronto

It’s supposed to reduce glare, although I think it’s just as much as fashion accessory. Baseball players definitely use eye black. I’m not sure if it would be necessary in hockey since they usually play indoors. As for golf, I’m not sure. It may just go against the traditions of the sport.

Some baseball players do it. However, they have the benefit of having time to flip down sunglasses, something a football player is unable to do, so it is of less benefit to them and is therefore more rare.

True, but also a) they can wear a cap, b) they are looking down at the ground at key moments, so glare would be minimal, and c) the object of their attention is stationary and just 6 or 7 feet from their eyes, so not too difficult to see clearly.

In cricket there have been players from the southern hemisphere who wear heavy sunblock. Example: Allan Donald. I would have thought that if wearing black under the eyes reduces glare, then a large white area would increase glare.

This study shows that it does help:

Oddly enough, not so much if you’re a blue eyed athlete:

So why have I seen it on some black NFL players?

I think Bricker did a staff report on this issue a couple of years ago, but I’ve not been able to find it.

Polarized contacts as a better alternative?

Polarized contact lenses do not yet exist except in patent submissions.

Myth Busters did this one but I don’t remember the outcome.

I presume a sheen of sweat on the skin can still cause reflection even if the payer is black.


It made some slight difference when combined with a cap.

It also makes you look bad-ass.

Serious WAG here… maybe it helps draw your opponent’s gaze away from your eyes, making it harder for them to read your intentions and “dehumanising” you a little?

I have no firsthand knowledge as to whether eye blacking does any good. However, I remember an essay former Texas Rangers outfielder Billy Sample wrote for Sports Illustrated after his retirement. He had a long list of things he WOULDN’T miss about baseball.

One of them was “Those moments when you’ve lost a fly ball in the sun, and you realize once again that the burnt cork around your eyes is really just for show.”

The use of a plastic face shield by football players has increased dramatically in the last ten years, particularly since they allowed polarized/tinted ones.

ETA: For what it’s worth, most folks don’t actually use eye black anymore but eye black stickers.

Polarized football face shields, like polarized contacts, do not yet exist. The technology to produce polarized shield lenses has only been around for a couple of years, for that matter.

Ah, that explains why they all look so even, and why so many athletes are now taking the time to write messages in the black space.

The black strip is not intended to protect against direct sunlight, but rather glare. He might as well complained that his bat wasn’t USB 2.0 compliant.

I’ve used it and it works wonders, but, me not looking parituclarly terrifying, it’s a tough look to pull.