Two weeks ago I sat in a bar with my little brother watching Monday night football in a university town with a big athletic program in central New York. I noticed something I have never seen, even though it has apparently been going on for a few years. All the players wore pink sneakers, gloves, or towels.
I asked my brother, “why are they wearing pink?” He said “breast cancer awareness.” I said, “Are you kidding?”
I get passive marketing to raise awareness. We do it all the time in my work. We have a “consent is sexy” campaign happening right now. Passive marketing can be a powerful tool to not only raise awareness of an issue, but also to spark conversation amongst those who view it.
However, with recent allegations of domestic violence issues within the NFL, and October being domestic violence awareness month, these men should be wearing purple. There’s something a bit unsettling about a bunch of burly football players wearing pink to raise awareness. The whole thing made me uncomfortable. I couldn’t even watch. And it is not the gendered color issue, i.e. blue is for boys, pink is for girls. It’s more like “here we are helping you ladies to make sure nothing bad happens to your boobies. Aren’t we great?”
The website has three points of focus: 1) for women to sign up for a reminder to get screened for breast cancer, aka, get a mammogram; 2) to donate money to the American Cancer society to provide more screenings for women (although I’m not really sure how this actually happens); and 3) asks folks to take a pledge that they will help other women get screened.
What are the players actually doing besides wearing pink? Who bought them their new pink shoes? Sneakers aren’t cheap, so did a portion of the cost for the pink shoes go to the American Cancer Society? The month culminates in a “crucial catch” day on October 25th where they will raise money to provide breast cancer education and screenings to underserved communities.
Providing free screenings is a wonderful idea, as a preventative method. But there’s so much more to this “pinking” of the NFL that is disturbing. Maybe we should pink the NFL to provide research to the causes of breast cancer. Maybe the NFL should have a month of not eating red meat as a factor or other types of awareness to the causes. Maybe they should have a pink sustainable month where they address the environmental impact that leads to the US being the country with the highest breast cancer rate.