Friday, October 10, 2014

Hey, NFL, thanks for remembering the ladies. Now let’s all go out and buy Barbie-pink Ray Rice jerseys.

A few years ago, the NFL decide to do a bit of good by raising a bit of awareness and a bit of money by jumping onto the October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month hot-pink bandwagon. So the league fiated that, at some point during the month, players had to wear something pink, refs had to throw pink penalty flags, and cheerleaders needed to shake pink pompoms, so that fan awareness would be raised that there’s something out there called breast cancer.

As Erin Ryan of Jezebel pointed out in a post last week:

Breast cancer awareness is so ubiquitous that if deadly diseases attended the same high school, breast cancer would probably be voted prom queen. (Source: Jezebel)

But, hey, if you have to pick a disease to, why not pick one that everyone’s aware of – and one that probably everyone knows someone who’s had it?

One of the most horrific things about cancer is that there’s no such thing as one big, bad monolithic “cancer”. Each cancer is something different in where and how it manifests itself, what and who it attacks, and whether and if you’re likely to survive. Not to mention that how your body responds to most cancers (and how it responds to their treatment) is unique to you, and impacted by everything you’ve eaten, breathed in, and done, and every place you’ve been. Which is why, for so many cancers, survival remains a complete and utter crapshoot.

Anyway, there’s no denying that breast cancer is a worthy cause.

But this is the NFL, so it’s not just about do-gooding. Because one of the upsides of do-gooding, if you’re the NFL, is that is kind of shines up your image a bit. Just look at all those big, strong he-men wearing girly-girl pink stripes on their pants, pink chin straps, pink cleats. Real men wear pink! Real men are really concerned about breast cancer!

It’s really hard not to go just a tad bit cynical here.

Okay, I’d be more cynical if they’d come up with this just this season.

Given all the terrible publicity they’ve had of late around player assaults on women, it would be completely outrageous for them to feign concern about a disease the mostly occurs among the female of the species.

Still, so it’s hard not to suspect that, when they decided to get pinkified a few years ago, it wasn’t also about the leagues desire to increase the proportion of females in its fan base. And, since it’s the NFL, it’s hard not to believe that it’s also about the merchandising. Somebody in the NFL marketing department, someone who probably specialized in powder-puff outreach, no doubt figured that there’s gold in them thar’ pink hills. And that us gals so like to don we now our pink apparel, we’ll rush on out and buy all sorts of cool pink items – and help “the cause.”

Although I do love the color pink, I must say that I find most of the merchandise just ghastly.

Like these boots, for $109.95 which, even as ugly bootPink bootss go are pretty darned ugly. What would UGGs super-model Tom Brady say about them? Bet Gisele Bündchen wouldn’t be caught dead, or alive, in them.

Or tPink scarfhis relative bargain, a scarf for a mere $17.95. Officially licensed! Woven graphics! 100% Acrylic!

Or this swell laptop case, fPink laptop bagor just $269.00.

But, oh, you may be thinking.

The proceeds of sales of these items are going to a good cause.

And it even says right there on most of these items that the NFL donates 100% of its proceeds to something to do with breast cancer.

The NFL claims that its pink philanthropy efforts "support the fight against breast cancer" by "promoting awareness" and providing funds to the American Cancer Society. But what they're mostly promoting is, uh, buying NFL gear, the profits from which are overwhelmingly pocketed by the NFL.

That’s because a schnook who actually wasn’t thinking might think they were actually donating the full “value” (i.e., the cost) of the merchandise, rather than just the NFL’s skim. But that 100% of proceeds actually translates into something closer to 11.25% (according to Business Insider). Most of the money goes to the companies who make the stuff and to the companies (often the NFL itself or the teams) that sell the stuff.

That 11.25% is not nothing, of course.

But in NFL terms, it’s next to nothing.

While the NFL brings in billions in revenue annually – last year’s take was $9.5B – their donations to breast cancer causes have supposedly averaged about $1M a year.

Not that they are any obligation whatsoever to support any particular “good cause,” and breast cancer’s as good as any. And I surely wouldn’t expect them to do fund-raising for a closer-to-home disease – say, something associated with the brain damage that so many players incur on the vaunted playing fields of the NFL.

Still, I find the whole pink thing a bit patronizing, especially when coming from the National Football League.

If the NFL really gave a hoot about women, it would provide counseling services to those players – and there are plenty of them - who can’t turn the violence off once they’re off the field, and who consider women sexual playthings and/or punching bags.

Charity begins at home.


This topic was suggested to me (and the Jezebel link sent) by my cousin (and fellow blogger)Ellen, who posted so eloquently on what it actually means to have – and survive – breast cancer, and her reaction to Omnipresent Pink Month.

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