If you watched even a single play from any of this past weekend’s NFL games you were inundated with the color pink. Pink gloves, pink undershirts, pink towels, pink socks pulled up to the knee. The television line used to indicate the yardage mark to gain for a first down, typically yellow, was turned pink on Thursday night’s NFL Network telecast. Pink signage dotted the periphery of the playing field and throughout the stadium, containing a variety of slogans. This year the officials even tossed pink flags to designate a penalty.
The pink takeover has been a recurring theme in the NFL for a handful of years now, storming the gates every October and rubbing your face in the NFL’s pet cause. For four whole weeks, five in rare, unlucky years, it is literally impossible to watch an NFL game without becoming aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and that the NFL wants, nay, demands you care.
In a vacuum this is, naturally, a positive. While the NFL manages to still exact some totalitarian authority by requiring the wearing of pink accessories during the first week of October (no, really), the relatively lax uniform practices enable some semblance of individuality to be shown by the players. Additionally, and obviously far more importantly, the proliferation of pink essentially demands your attention, drawing awareness to a noble cause. Granted, breast cancer is almost certainly the most publicized cancer in the nation, despite only ranking fourth in occurrences and second in death, but I won’t be the scrooge to cry foul at calling attention to a very real, very preventable danger to millions of American women (and the occasional man, yes).
However, some new information more or less obliterates any goodwill the otherwise deplorable league generates from its apparent act of benevolence. For those too lazy to click through, the Huffington Post reported that the NFL donates only 5% of the proceeds generated from the sale of the game-worn, pink memorabilia it auctions off. Going back to the above paragraph, remember the NFL requires players to don pink garments the first week of October. Then turns around and sells them to Johnny Football Fan. And then pockets 95% of said sale, handing over 5% to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which of course has problems of their own in terms of transparency.
So, more or less, what we have is a business venture. A partnership between two entities both profiting, literally, off of the inundation of the football viewer. Not malicious, per se, but far from the benevolent, noble deed the NFL wished you thought it to be.
On the other hand of things we have Brandon Marshall. Previously considered a troublemaker with character issues, he has since been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and subsequently become an informal spokesperson for mental illness. Mental illness tends to not receive the same outpouring of support as cancer research, both in terms of sheer dollars and cents and public awareness, evidenced by it receiving a lone week and relatively no publicity compared to the month-long inundation of pink everything breast cancer receives. As a small act to try and shine some light on the week and, in turn, perhaps enlighten a football fan or thousand about the implicit dangers of mental diseases, such as borderline personality disorder, and maybe drive a spike in donation.
The NFL, however, doesn’t see it the same way. While backing off of its initial stance to not allow him on the field if he donned the green shoes, it still fully intends on fining Brandon for “violating their overly strict, restrictive and oppressive uniform policy”*, the result Marshall admittedly expected, leading him to pledge to match the fine and donate it to charity. A mental health charity, mind you, not the overly publicized, CEO-profiting Susan G. Komen Foundation. Something seems backwards about this, no?
* I may have embellished this a bit.
While you tune in Thursday night to Brandon Marshall and the Chicago Bears’ tilt with the New York Giants, listen for any sort of mention of Marshall’s green shoes. While the Bears were fortunate enough to be nationally televised this week, potentially providing Marshall’s cause a larger platform, it will be aired on the shield’s own television network, NFL Network. So, given their “Us versus the World” mentality, could lead to a whitewashing of Marshall’s good efforts in lieu of further concentration of the NFL’s seemingly lone interest; breast cancer. I can guarantee you will see this commercial a handful of times, a heartwarming story which I can’t help but shake my head at given the patting-thyself-on-the-back tone which emanates throughout. It is obviously a wonderful occurrence that Tina was able to detect breast cancer early enough to avoid a calamitous bout with cancer, and perhaps she really wouldn’t have noticed were it not the NFL’s over-the-top dedication to plastering pink all over the field. But the commercial still just reeks of self-congratulations; essentially justifying their cause despite them raking in 95% of the profits gleaned from the sale of supposedly for-charity paraphernalia. Essentially, for the NFL to implicitly even take an iota of credit for saving this woman’s life really shines a light on where the NFL’s interests truly lie.
Their own bottom line.