You may have noticed during the NFL games on Sunday that the league is in its annual "Pink Out" for breast cancer awareness. Players are wearing pink gloves, pink sweatbands, pink towels and even pink shoes. There are pink ribbons stamped on the balls and painted on the fields. National anthems are being sung by breast cancer survivors and banners along the field tell you how you can donate to help the cause. It is an impressive league-wide effort to benefit a worthy cause.
But what if you are a player who lost someone special to you to prostate cancer? Or you have a parent or grandparent dealing with Alzheimers Disease? Or you have a child that has been diagnosed with autism? How do you show your support on the huge stage provided by the NFL? You don't--that's how. While the Green and Gold of the Packers can be "highlighted" by pink this month--any other week anything outside of the standard issue uniform is strictly prohibited. This is a league that has fined players for writing a friend's initials or uniform number on their ankle tape or gloves. It's also a league that once barred Peyton Manning from wearing high-top black shoes on the field as a tribute following the death of the greatest quarterback of all time--Johnny Unitas--because they did not fit the approved uniform policy.
The tie to breast cancer awareness benefits the NFL more than any of those other causes. The growth of male fans for professional football is very limited--so a big push to promote prostate cancer awareness wouldn't drive any extra interest in the game. (And let's be honest, the last thing guys want to be reminded of when they are watching sports is a prostate exam.) But there are still a lot of women who don't follow the sport. If putting some pink on the players and making it look like you are a big backer of women's issues gets a few more eyes on the game--that makes good business sense. Plus, every team has a full selection of pink apparel stocked in their pro shop and on-line for you to order while you watch!
I would just like to see the NFL use its enormous marketing power to benefit a wider range of causes. How about all of the teams wear their throwback jerseys for a month to raise money and promote awareness of all of the NFL Alumni who are physically or mentally crippled due to the "entertainment" they provided the fans for all of those years. Or perhaps all of the players arrested and convicted on domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and weapons charges could don orange jumpsuits with prisoner numbers for a game to promote anti-crime and anti-violence programs. It wouldn't be as cute as pink shoes--but it would sure make a heck of a statement.