Athletes support more than breast cancer awareness

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Athletes support more than breast cancer awareness

Justin Elder-Davis, Sports Reporter

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Growing up playing football as a child, I always looked forward to the month of October for one reason: we can wear as much pink as we wanted on the field without any questions being asked. Socks, gloves, cleats and mouthpieces were all turned into pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, just like how the players did in the National Football League. This has always led me to wonder if us just wearing a color on a field helps the fight against breast cancer or was our “support” phony in a way?

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an international health campaign lasting the month of October that is intended to increase global awareness of breast cancer. The first organized awareness event happened in October 1985 and has spread ever since.

The international symbol for the month is the color pink and in the 1990’s the pink ribbon became the main symbol of support.

“However, the colour pink is used in a variety of ways, including on clothing, posters, and internet web sites,” writes Kara Rogers of Encyclopedia Britannica.

The thing is, just because the athletes are purchasing the color that corresponds with the occasion—in this case pink— doesn’t mean they are supporting the cause.

The Washington Post’s Jacob Bogage warns us not to judge the purchase by its color in his article titled The NFL has high school athletes thinking pink, but where are the proceeds going?

“Aside from specifically licensed merchandise bearing the NFL pink ribbon shield logo, pink gear sales usually do not benefit any breast cancer-affiliated causes. That means much of what is worn at the youth level is a fashion statement more than a philanthropic effort — whether athletes and their parents know it or not,” writes Bogage.

As I watch football on the weekends it seems that the “support” has died down.

Where has all the pink gone?

Since the 2009 season, the NFL and the American Cancer Society started an initiative called “Crucial Catch,” which focuses on “the prevention and early detection of multiple cancers, including breast cancer.” They do this through fundraising, education, and awareness initiatives and the partnership has raised of $20 million (

In 2017, The Crucial Catch campaign moved on from supporting strictly breast cancer to allowing all thirty-two NFL teams to choose which type of cancer they would like to support.

“Teams now have a say in the cause they’ll champion for about 18 percent of their schedule. They can still choose breast cancer, or another detectable, screenable cancer such as prostate or colorectal cancer—or one to which a player or coach has a personal tie,” writes Jenny Vrentas in her articled titled The NFL Moves On From Pink October.

The move to allow the individual teams choose who they want to support has come in a time where professional leagues have a social responsibility to make a difference and make everyone happy and the NFL has done well in their efforts and has made Crucial Catch apparel easily accessible to everyone.