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The Pinking of the NFL – It’s Almost a Little Embarrassing

This past Sunday when I was watching my favorite NFL football team, the Minnesota Vikings, and noticing the pink caps, pink gloves, pink whistles, pink arm bands, pink towels, pink mouth guards, pink shoes, pink ribbons, pink this and pink that, I was trying to figure out exactly how I felt about all that pink being displayed on a football field on a sunny, October Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis. And btw, yes I do live in Wisconsin. And yes, I’m a Vikings fan rather than a Packer fan, which can be a bit “risky” here in Packer Land.

While watching the game and seeing all that pink, I knew I was supposed to feel supported. I was supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy. After all, this hugely visible organization called the NFL was turning everything pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, maybe even for little old me.

Why wouldn’t I feel good about that?

Why wouldn’t I feel all warm and fuzzy?

Basically, because as is so often the case during Pinktober, all this pinking feels overdone, a tad insincere, more about making money, exclusive (because even though it’s the NFL, I didn’t notice any mention of male breast cancer), hoggish (what about the other cancers?) and the list could go on and on…

It’s just another example of Pinktober “too muchness.”

Mostly what I felt when observing all that pink during the game was uncomfortable, maybe even a little embarrassed.

I sat there watching and thinking about all those other cancers out there that were not being represented.

Where are their NFL months?

Where are their NFL ribbons?

It’s not like NFL players and owners don’t have family members impacted by other cancers.

In fact, wouldn’t it be more logical to emphasize, draw attention to and promote awareness for a male-type cancer, say prostate for instance?

Guess not. Oh wait. There isn’t as much “opportunity” in those other cancers.

No wonder the pink ribbon is sometimes looked upon as the bully of ribbons.

Other articles have been written about how the NFL benefits from all this pinking. You can read one of them here. The NFL isn’t doing all this pinking just because the top officials have big hearts and care about women’s health. I’m not saying they don’t care, but there is way more to it than that. There’s big money involved. And public perception. Breast Cancer Awareness Month was chosen for a reason. After all, breast cancer is the popular disease bandwagon to most easily entice people to hop onto when an organization wants to bolster their image. Talk about bang for your buck, I mean pink ribbon.

I know some would say we breast cancer ‘survivors’ should stop whining. Breast cancer is lucky to get all this attention.

I would counter by saying, true enough. Breast cancer does indeed get lots of attention.

But maybe it hasn’t been getting the right kind.

How do you feel about the NFL’s “pinking” during BCAM?

Do you think the pink ribbon has turned into the “bully” of ribbbons?

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Pinking of the NFL during BCAMImage via




Beth L. Gainer

Friday 23rd of October 2015

Hi Nancy,

I'm not sure whether the pink ribbon is the bully of other ribbons. Perhaps it is the "superstar" of all ribbons. Who knows? I know I can't stand watching people in the NFL all be-decked in pink. It trivializes breast cancer in my opinion.

And I think I know why you are a Vikings fan. You're from Minnesota, right?


Friday 23rd of October 2015

Beth, I think the pink ribbon is the bully of ribbons. No other ribbon stands a chance when the pink one is always right there front and center. And yes, I'm still a Minnesotan at heart. xo


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

This is the problem with Breast Cancer Awareness. It runs up against a pink brick wall, and doesn't extend past it. So people know that "breast cancer" exists and that it is "celebrated" in the month of October with pink.


That's about it, for the general public. That's as far as the understanding and awareness of breast cancer goes. The NFL isn't spreading awareness, they're just hopping on the money bandwagon to profit off people who think wearing a color makes a difference in the world and they've done their good deed for the day.

Breast Cancer Awareness as it currently stands is a fine example of slactivism. It's become a month-long party of graham cracker treats and ribbon-shaped cookies and boobie cupcakes and pink balloons and tutu races and pink NFL and in doing things like that, people can say they "know" about breast cancer, and that they're doing a "good thing", and flash "but I support breast cancer awareness" as street cred for being a good person to get them out of having to do anything to promote awareness for other cancers, because that's more obscure and harder and therefore more work.


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

Susanne, Your comment is spot-on. Thank you.


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

Nancy, I am not into the NFL, but to me this falls under the same umbrella as all the other organizations taking advantage of this cause. I agree pink is overplayed. I feel bad that other cancers aren't getting as much attention. I mean, I am at a high risk for other cancers too! Aren't we all (those diagnosed with any type of cancer)? I wouldn't be happy if I got ovarian cancer, for example. That one doesn't get much research. And this type runs in my family. One of the issues is that bc is the most common type of cancer so it gets all the attention, just not the right kind.

On a separate note, I think it is very important we all speak up about funding for bc research, and to expose those organizations who do not contribute to finding a cure. Sadly, not everyone stresses these issues and only patients seem to react, right? Who else is going to do it? No one wants to deal with anything related to cancer unless they are in it. So yes, let's continue to express our thoughts.


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

Rebecca, Pink is way overplayed. Of course, we'd feel differently if lots of money was being raised and actually spent on research. And yes, all the other cancers are left out in the cold most of the time. I do feel the pink ribbon has turned into the bully of ribbons. It just has. Thank you for sharing some thoughts on this.


Wednesday 21st of October 2015

Hmm, mixed feelings. Raising awareness is a good thing if it saves lives but the truth is it doesn't because not all cancers are equal and that includes the various breast cancers. Being aware doesn't stop it happening. Raising money is a good thing if it all goes on research or care for those with cancer but the truth it doesn't which means people are still dying of breast and other cancers. The whole 'which cancer is most deserving / is support for breast cancer campaigns making other cancers a poor relation?' is unhelpful and misinformed. Breast cancer that's invaded the liver is most likely untreatable and therefore deadly. The same isn't necessarily so for e.g. Bowel cancer where treatment options and a chance of cure might remain. I guess what I'm saying is that there are swings and roundabouts, good and bad, hope and desolation, life and death, in any cancer scenario. As long as some of us are still dying any effort to raise vital research dollars is better than nothing at all. Living in a country where important and proven stage 4 drugs have been made unavailable (and health insurance (which wouldn't cover it anyway) isn't something people have given we pay a tax at source from our wages) it wouldn't bother me if every house, car, bus, sports team and tree was pink if it meant people with any form and stage of cancer got the treatment and support they needed.


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

Tracy, It wouldn't matter to me either if turning everything pink was bringing in truckloads of dollars earmarked for research. That has not been happening here either. I just can't see how people with other cancers can't help but look at the NFL's pinking as exclusionary. What about all the other cancers? Thank you for sharing you insights.


Tuesday 20th of October 2015

I will be so glad when Pink October is over so I can stop reading about how every body hates it ..... It is now boring ..... I get the message.... Every one with BC hates Pink because it does not embrace meastatic BC.... Because it is to much... Well what I say is be grateful that people know about your cancer at all... Be glad people raise money for your cancer .... By the end of October I have to say I hate all the winging!!!! Enough is enough... Role on November when all this is over!!!!!


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

Helen, I sense your frustration. Actually I do not hate pink at all. And the trouble is, everyone does not get it like you do, Helen. And as for all that money being raised, well, what it is being used for? Sadly, not enough for research. Thank you for sharing your feelings. November will soon be here.

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