Making a Difference Off the Field

October holds several different meanings for the members in our society. It represents the beginning of the fall season and the theatrical holiday Halloween. To a smaller group, it is about National Bullying Prevention Month, which was recognized by the United States since 2006. October also stands for a nationally recognized, very important cause that affects thousands of individuals every year: “Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2012 as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” As individuals in our society are guided by various narratives and learn from different experiences, Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back and former Carolina Panther DeAngelo Williams finds a special importance in the month as he unfortunately lost his mother to breast cancer in May of 2014.

In the book “Communication Theories for Everyday Life”, Walter Fisher, a contemporary theorist, speaks of how people are strongly influenced through storytelling: “Fisher believed that human beings are by nature tellers of stories… that the world was best understood as a series of stories that compete for our attention and adherence,” (Baldwin, Perry, & Moffitt). Individuals process and evaluate the persuasiveness of competing stories using narrative rationality, but the stories must also be popular or understood by the masses to have a full effect. About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer during her life and about 40,290 women in the United States are expected to die in 2015 from breast cancer. However, our society didn’t quite stress the importance on the issue until recently and the actions that DeAngelo Williams has taken along with the NFL community have helped increase awareness immensely. Breast cancer is a part of his family’s story like many others, but he has used his stage as an NFL player to help take the initiative and his passion about raising awareness increases participation from other members of the NFL community and American society.

The color pink is now extremely prominent on the football field during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a sport so heavily reliant on the bravado and testosterone of its players are now seen wearing pink gloves, shoes, and towels with a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon. Williams is the pioneer of this tradition and it is amazing to see where it has gone. It initially started in the summer of 2009 when Williams asked Riley Fields, Panthers director of community relations, if he thought the NFL might consider letting players wear pink cleats in addition to other pink apparel the league already planned to allow. Not only do players, coaches, and game officials wear pink, but many of their game-worn items are auctioned off with direct proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

The role that breast cancer played in Williams’ life left him compelled to help try to fight a disease that will continue to plague the lives of so many others. The support he has received in his efforts have allowed for the widespread increasing awareness of breast cancer in the month of October. Even the video game “Madden NFL 16” has incorporated the ‘pink treatment’, as Williams’ character in the game reflects his decision to dye some of his dreadlocks pink last September in honor of his mother. In a recent effort to increase awareness, Williams uploaded a two-part video to Instagram with him as the focal point of a commercial to help spread awareness with the caption: “This new TV commercial is dedicated to my mom, my 4 aunts, and women everywhere affected by Breast Cancer. I love you. #WeAreInThisTOGETHER.” It can be seen at

-Griffin Weidele, Austin Moody, Luci Keefer, Allen Wooten, Scott Uraro