I knew it was bound to happen when I began writing about serious topics related to the NFL that may be of interest to Football Widows. I knew that I would unwittingly write about something that would be attached to controversy. I had no idea that I would find that topic my first time deviating from the lighthearted fluffiness that is my quest to make sense of my husband’s first love, football. I am speaking of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness efforts.
This evening, my husband was discussing this site with two different people, in two different contexts, who mentioned that there is controversy over the percentage of the money that actually finds its way into the hands of organizations like The American Cancer Society. After I applauded these guys for their efforts to save the boobies, I did some research of my own to see what was being said. The first article I found unfortunately contained so much profanity within the first paragraph, that the author lost credibility. She also harpooned the ACS for the amount of money they spend on overhead and made some factual errors about the actual work of the ACS, so that turned me off further. Anyway, I went in search of a non-potty mouth account of the facts, and read the article that she referenced in her rant. Yes, I am judging it as a rant given the use of a word that rhymes with “brothertrucking” in first few sentences of the article. Come on, people, this is a family site! Besides, back to the Everything I Need to Know about Football, I Learned in Kindergarten philosophy, I am electing to “use my words”.
The NFL issued a response to the criticism. They do not dispute the fact that only 5% of the proceeds from the sale of pink licensed merchandise go to charitable organizations. In fact, the majority of money donated comes from the other initiatives, including encouraging fan donations. And, yes, $3 million over 4 years is not much compared to the NFL’s $9+ billion in profits annually. I get mentally bogged down by the fact that the NFL records multi-billion dollar profits, and I am not invested enough in learning how much of a profit is made from NFL licensed merchandise sales. I don’t know what a good percentage of the profits would be to donate and I don’t think it is my place to decide that on the part of the owners, players, or my next door neighbor for that matter. Once I get stuck there, it seems that they profit in all sorts of ways that I am clueless about, but I don’t have a dog in that particular fight. I just know that I could buy a lot of pizza to feed our hungry brood with that kind of cash!!
I am an expert in the area of consumer behavior related to purchase of NFL merchandise. I am, of course, referring to the volume of Patriots items that we purchase, which, believe me when I say, is certainly plenty to qualify me as a market research specialist! For example, we have a wheel cover on the Honda, a recently-broken lawn chair, clocks, flags, banners, mini helmets, slightly larger mini helmets, hats, a new game day jersey purchased for him by moi for his recent birthday, and the list goes on and on. Patriots merchandise is low hanging fruit in the gift-giving department. Here is a short list of some of the fabulous items that we don’t own. Not yet anyway…
1. New England Patriots Silver Team Logo Pro Toaster, which toasts the team logo onto the bread ($39.95)
2. New England Patriots Gameday Salt and Pepper Shakers in the shape of jerseys in the home and away colors ($15.95)
3. New England Patriots Flying Rally Monkey (What the…?) ($9.95)
4. New England Patriots 12” x 12” Family Car Decal Sheet (we’d need 2 at $14.95 each)
5. New England Patriots High Heel Shoe Wine Bottle Holder (I kid you not!) ($35.95)
6. New England Patriots ProToast Elite Toaster, black, different manufacturer… ($39.95)
7. New England Patriots 4-Pack Light-Up Party Ice Cubes (speechless) ($14.95)
8. New England Patriots ARMagnet (seriously, a life size magnet of an arm of a Pats player holding the ball that you stick outside the driver’s side window) ($22.95)
9. New England Patriots 6-pack Edible Helmet Pizza Prints (I think I am losing consciousness…) ($34.95)
10. And for the ladies, at the low, low bargain basement price of $1.95, a 4-pack of Temporary Nail Tattoos!!
I’m not even going to start on gifts for the family dog…It seems that people buy the stuff whether it is pink or not, and I am in no position to assess how much consumer behavior is impacted by the NFL going pink. My point is that I don’t know if it matters, and I respect that, to others, it may.
As an aside, I went looking for the American Cancer Society’s position on the topic. I only found a blurb from 2011 that talked about the partnership between their organization and the NFL. They reference the advocacy efforts in congress that have taken place as a result “A Crucial Catch” with the goal of increasing research funding. Again, I am not an expert on conducting extensive research, so maybe there is more out there that isn’t as favorable.
Another issue that is being taken up is related to the value of “awareness”. I have shared that I am 40-something-years-old, and I have had regular mammography since my 40th birthday. I know women who are my age who don’t. I haven’t taken a poll, but I am wondering if they know that breast cancer will impact 1 in 8 women. If they don’t, maybe more awareness isn’t such a bad thing. The proceeds from game day auction items go toward grants to fund awareness campaigns and access to screenings for women in underserved areas. In that case, awareness leads to screening, leads to earliest possible detection. It’s not medical research, but still a very valuable cause in my mind.
I own socks with pink ribbons, a lime green ball cap with a pink ribbon that I wore when I walked in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure a few years ago, a pink wrist band, a lunch bag from Lean Cuisine, and most likely some other things that I can’t recall. I purchased them without regard for the amount of money that would go directly to research. In point of fact, many makers of pink merchandise do so just for profit without any donation to any organization. I don’t think that it makes me a bad person, nor does it mean I was manipulated into making a purchase that I wouldn’t have made otherwise. I wouldn’t even be a bit surprised if Santa Clause placed a pink Pats jersey under the tree for me this year.
As I get older, I personally know more and more women who are diagnosed with the disease. My maternal grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. Because of early detection, she is alive and still kicking at nearly 92. I seldom wear pink, but when I do, it is also a show of solidarity. It is a visual symbol and a very minute gesture of support for the women in my life and the women in the lives of people that I care about who are impacted by this disease. It is a cause no more worthy than, say, colon cancer awareness (I have a dear friend who has been battling that disease for 4 years) or Autism Awareness (one of my dearest friends has a son with Autism) or St. Jude (I lost a cousin to leukemia). It is also no LESS worthy and I actually found quite a bit of evidence of additional support specific to NFL teams and players who have been personally impacted by breast cancer.
I invite Widows and Fans alike to comment on this topic. I don’t have the thick skin of, say, a lifelong Bears fan who has endured ridicule, or Ghost Rat who is much more passionate and able to defend his position easily, so be gentle on me, although not the issue. I don’t have a right or wrong answer about the topic. I was just enjoying believing that the NFL was acknowledging a good cause. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t leading (all 3 of) my readers astray. I merely hope to provide more food for thought.
Widow’s Update: Pro Football Talk posted this morning that the NFL made a statement to them stating that they does NOT profit at all from the sale of pink merchandise. Rather, they donate 100% of the “net profit”. Mike Florio goes on to question the accounting smoke and mirrors that go into determining “net profit”. I’ve been slaving away in the non profit work world 20 times longer than I have been a football widow and I guarantee that most people who don’t work in that sector are unaware of the associated costs of doing business and of launching an awareness campaign of any magnitude. Sure, we can make the NFL out to be the Big Bad Wolf in this case. After all, they are always the $9.5 billion dollar gorilla in the room. I just pose the question: “are we sure that this is a bad thing that they are doing?”.
Also, I don’t want to tip my hand, because I know that all 3 of the people who read my posts love the anticipation of knowing where my picks will come from, but stay tuned for more information about the charitable work of specific teams and players. NFL teams and many players have their own charitable foundations. Teams give back in their home communities in a variety of ways, including countless hours of community service in addition to the donation of money. So, while we are looking at this percentage of funds donated for Breast Cancer Awareness, perhaps we are short sighted if we don’t look at all that they give.