October means two seemingly different things: football season is in full swing. Breast cancer awareness month means there is pink everywhere.
Once upon a time, these two things lived their own separate lives, with the only crossover being a few public service announcements during NFL games. But now, pink is as present in an October football game as the football itself.
In practically every October game, pink is prevalent. Teams wearing pink gloves, pinks arm bands, pink shoes, pink socks, pink logos on their helmets, pink towels, pink jerseys, and pink helmets. For one ill-fated week, the NFL even used pink penalty flags.
I think it is time for some changes.
I’m not saying we get rid of pink throughout football. We all agree that cancer sucks, raising awareness for a disease that strikes so many Americans is good, and every good football player loves his mom / wife / sister / grandmother / aunt.
But somewhere along the way, the focus changed. Instead of being a good way to raise awareness for a horrible disease, it has somehow found a way to be both over-the-top and empty. As more teams and players get on board the hot pink bandwagon, wearing pink is becoming more of a “me-too”, keeping up with the Joneses competition than a simple act to raise awareness. When few do it, it has impact. When everybody does it, it has little meaning. There have even been claims that the proliferation of pink has more to do with expanding the NFL’s female audience than raising breast cancer awareness.
It’s time to pump some new life into the wear pink process, and have it made a statement again. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Make it a pay to wear campaign. You want to wear pink? Make a donation. A pink wristband? $100 donation. A pink towel in your waistband? $250. Pink cleats and socks? $500. And so on. The more you donate, the more pink you can wear.
Now instead of an empty gesture where guys put on pink because everybody else it doing it, you impart real change: Actual money for research is generated. If half the players in the league donate $100 to wear a pink wristband, that is almost $90,000. Plus, those who truly support the cause can be easily identified and recognized. Now, any of the “me-too” players who want to fit in can do so while still making a difference.
Yes, technically, money is going to breast cancer research from the pink stuff in the NFL – both from retail sales and auctioning off game-used items. However, there is some concern/controversy surrounding just how much money the American Cancer Society actually gets from the NFL for selling pink gear stuff to their fans. My plan would bring in additional funds – without the league, retailers, or manufacturers taking a cut – as well as generating goodwill for the players.
Obviously , a “pay for pink” campaign would work a little differently for the college kids, most of whom are not in a financial position to make charitable contributions. Therefore, at the college level, it is the schools who pay for pink. If Oregon wants to make a statement with their pink helmets, make them* write a five or six figure check for the privilege.
*I say “them” loosely, as I doubt many athletic departments at taxpayer-funded state universities can (or would) write big checks to charity. But there are plenty of behind the scenes benefactors (boosters, alumni, local businesses) who may chip in – not to mention the money out there from apparel deals with Nike/Adidas/Under Armour, the billion dollar TV deal the school has with their conference, or their head coach making over $2 million a year.
In the case of Oregon and their pink helmets, the donation money could come from their apparel provider (Nike), a prominent alumnus (Phil Knight), funds from the Pac 12’s TV deal (which brings in about $21 million per school, per year), or head coach Mark Helfrich ($1.8 million base salary).
By shifting from “everybody wear pink!!!” to a “pay for pink” model, awareness can still be raised, but more importantly, real money can be raised to fight the disease.