The NFL Goes Pink?

Everything turns pink in the month of October, and for good reason. Companies of all types step up to the plate to raise awareness for a wonderful cause. Breast cancer affects millions, one in eight women will develop it in their lifetime. Since so many are affected by this awful disease, it is no surprise that so many businesses take the initiative to raise money and awareness.


The NFL, although known for making everything from their uniforms to penalty flags pink, has been under fire recently for their misleading campaign. It has been said that no money actually goes to breast cancer research, not even a single dollar. The proceeds from the campaign are donated to the American Cancer Society (ACS), who then use the funds to build awareness and provide screenings for women over the age of 40. A representative from the ACS, Tara Peters, spoke to a writer at VICE Sports and said, “The money that we receive from NFL has nothing to do with our research program.” VICE also found out that all of the NFL donations go to an “ACS CHANGE program,” which awards grants to community health facilities located within 100 miles of an NFL city with the purpose of educating women about breast health.

Being educated and getting your screenings is no doubt important for being proactive with your health but it is not the same as diagnostic mammography. As research provides these new facts it is easy to see why the NFL would be receiving criticism for dishing out their medical advice by saying that “Annual Screening Saves Lives.”

The past few months have not been the best for the NFL or its image. They are usually applauded for the participation and donations towards breast cancer “research.” But following suit of the recent scandals, the generosity of the NFL is misleading and fans are left unhappy once again. The organization has had a major hit to their image, brand, and reputation. The scandals regarding abuse towards women and children have already received a lot of attention, and now with this misleading campaign information being fed to customers, the image takes another hit. An organization’s brand is supposed to display the vision and values and what is believed to be moral or ethical. While the employees of the NFL are trying to take initiatives to show they don’t support domestic abuse or child abuse, such as the new policy regarding domestic violence and punishments, those things are erased when a new scandal occurs. They are donating to a good cause, however it is not as much as they say and doesn’t go towards what is being advertised. The organization may be trying to make up for the scandal and decisions made in the past, but it seems as though they can’t keep up. What does this say about the brand of the NFL and the people who work for it? A brand is supposed to show what is believed to be ethical and the vision and values of the organization. So what is the vision of the NFL and what do they think is morally right?

By: Kelli Hall, Stephanie Jordan, Morgan McCleaf, Shawn Rause, and Danielle Walters

Photo Credit: The Business of Sports

12 thoughts on “The NFL Goes Pink?

  1. I was very surprised to discover from this post about the NFL’s misleading cancer research involvement. However, I really should not be all that surprised. After all, the NFL has obviously proven themselves to be an unethical brand with all the negative news stories surrounding them these last few months. I always assumed, like most people, that the one thing the NFL was doing “right” for the community was their involvement with breast cancer awareness and research. Unfortunately, it sounds as though this is yet another disappointment coming from the National Football League. Can they do anything right?

  2. With so many stories coming out of the NFL and being an avid football fan, I still support everything the NFL is doing for Breast Cancer awareness. I understand that many think that money should go towards research, but I love the fact that they’re trying to make it easier for women to receive the screenings and education they need about this disease. While you see many players and teams coming out in more and more pink every year, I’ve never once heard any NFL team say that they send their money towards research. Breast Cancer awareness in itself is so broad of a topic. It also reaches towards educating others, screenings, giving help to those with treatments already, etc. I love the fact that the NFL is trying to give to a different area and help those that aren’t affected yet but could get affected. Not to say that research isn’t important but I don’t think this is exactly giving them a negative image.

  3. It’s really aggravating to find out this information. I hadn’t heard this news yet of the money raised by the NFL not going towards what they claim it does. Just as ya’ll stated, awareness and screenings are very important; but, there is so much awareness about that already that the money would be much for beneficial to use towards research instead.

  4. Thank you for writing this post because about two weeks ago I posted a Facebook link about how much the NFL was donating to breast cancer foundations and cancer foundations in general, but now it’s all so clear. The NFL is only worried about the basis of their “donations”. Headlines are just going to say “NFL donates millions” but not necessarily elaborate and break down what exactly they are donating to. Devon Still is a NFL player who’s young daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and ever since she was diagnosed, it has been broadcasted that the NFL is helping him in any way they can. His team was going to release him, but kept him on so he wouldn’t lose money or health insurance; then during the Patriots game when they played his team, the cheerleaders wore his jersey to announce that a portion of proceeds from the purchase of Still’s jersey would go to cancer research, which I thought was incredible, but after reading your post I want to know where exactly that money DID go and what it’s helping.

  5. I was pretty shocked when I initially read this post. I had never really taken into account about where that money went or how it was being spent, I just always assumed it was going to actually finding a cure for breast cancer. I liked the fact that you brought up the idea of their image and reputation taking a blow from this discovery. Ever since the season started, the NFL has been scrutinized from a legal standpoint to an ethical one. Revealing this information really sheds light on what the NFL’s morals really are. Are they putting on a front for the fans, or do they really care about what is going on in society? I know that there are a lot of NFL players who’s mothers suffered from breast cancer so I am wondering how they must feel discovering this information (if they didn’t already know it). NFL is quickly losing credibility, and they better regain it before they start losing fans.

  6. Thank you for all of the feedback!
    Some of you really hit the nail on the head when mentioning that you were shocked because you never really thought of looking into where that money went. We didn’t either! Most people probably don’t, they just trust because the NFL is such a large and well known company. Which I think is very common for consumers, I know I don’t always look into everything as throughly as I should.
    Again, there is no doubt that what they are doing is great, money is still going to a great cause! We think the issue here is just a matter of transparency.
    -Danielle Walters

  7. Thank you for the incredibly enlightening information about the NFL and their “partnership” with breast cancer research. It is not hard to miss the hot pink gloves, socks, shoes, and arm bands that many players wear. I had always assumed the NFL’s visual support of breast cancer research was a direct indicator of their temporal and financial support of the cause. Amid all that the NFL has been going through in recent months, I am sure this newly uncovered information will produce an even more negative image of their brand. It really just comes off as an insincere move on their part.

  8. I agree that there is definitely an issue with transparency here. I think sometimes this is the fault of the media as well as the brand. The NFL is still donating to a good cause but they are not being clear about what exactly the money is going towards. Most news outlets do not cover that aspect of their donation but instead accept it at face value like consumers do. Clearly some news outlets have taken the time to do their research but if this is not the majority, then most consumers will not know about discrepancy which could anger them more when finding out later on.

  9. Although I am not very surprised to hear of yet another NFL slip up, I feel like this issue might be one that has been inflated due to the other scandals that the NFL has been involved in recently. Although it is upsetting to hear that the money the NFL raises is not going towards breast cancer research as they claim, the funds are being used to build awareness and provide screenings for women over the age of 40. Is that truly something to be so upset over? Women receiving education about breast cancer and centers being awarded grants to provide screenings are just as important as research for a cure. Finding a cure will do no good, if women don’t know to go in to get treated, and can’t afford screenings. It seems to me that the true error the NFL made here is just misleading information, which is more of an irritant than an outright scandal. Would people be as outraged if they had known from the beginning that the money was going to the ACS change program instead of research? Probably not, but it seems to me that people are looking for any slip up that the NFL makes in light of the recent events. Had it not been for Ray Rice, this information about where the NFL is donating their money would be a much smaller story, and would not have outraged so many. The money is still going to a worthy cause, I think because people are expecting the worst in the NFL they are seeing the worst of the situation. Although they definitely made an error in claiming the money is going to something else, it is still going towards the overall goal of saving women’s lives and eliminating breast cancer. Isn’t that what’s most important?

  10. Like most of the other students who have commented, I was also surprised to learn that the money raised by the NFL is not actually going to breast cancer research. It is a good point, however, as another person commented, that I have never actually questioned where the money was going. When the athletes wear pink, I assume they are donating specifically for breast cancer research. I still respect that they donate the money to the American Cancer Society, and that they wear pink on the fields during the month of October.

  11. Nowadays; when it comes to big brands and big companies everything is under cruel observance and criticism of customers and other people. Communication, what to say and especially what NOT to say, is crucial.

    It might be that NFL’s good purpose campaign has being a little misleading, but still they are doing very highly important charity for good cause! I myself think that it is a little too unnecessary to make such a big deal about it, just because the focus of the charity is little different (still remaining in breast cancer!). I think NFL goes for a good purpose and did great!

    -Arla Häggkvist

  12. Pingback: The NFL's pinkwashing campaign is a naked PR grab - Buzz Ryan

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