NFL’s Double Standard

We’ve all seen the Play 60 commercials.

Play 60 is part of the NFL Foundation’s reach to kids to get them active and playing outside 60 minutes a day. It would appear that the NFL is interested in helping out plenty of people other than their players. The NFL Foundation is on a mission to “support the health, safety, and wellness of athletes, youth football, and the communities which support [their] game”. The NFL devotes all of October to Breast Cancer Awareness and you can buy specifically pink merchandise to support the “crucial catch” push that the NFL does to encourage women to get early screenings for breast cancer.

All of these things sound great, until you decide to dig a little further. Until you read the story of Deangelo Williams and why he says pink isn’t a color to him but a culture. Until you see the eye black of Pittsburgh Steelers Cameron Heyward that reads “Iron” and “Head” in honor of his late father. Which contradicts the fact that the NFL didn’t find Devon Still for wearing “Leah” “Strong” eye black under his eyes last season. Now, some might say that Still didn’t get fined because his daughter’s cancer diagnosis brought a lot of viewers to the NFL and gave us all something to root for. I’m not sure if that’s true. I’m sure we’ll never know.

With the story of Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back DeAngelo Williams though I struggle to find a reason why the NFL can’t stand behind him. In their policy about personal messages they specifically say messages that aren’t approved but the NFL has an entire website dedicated to this cause! It’s clearly approved. So, what’s the hold up? A fear of distraction, this will open the floodgates, players will start coming out of the woodwork for the chance to wear something that supports a cause that they believe in. Oh, no. That sounds awful.

When doing a bit more research about the NFL’s relationship with Breast Cancer Awareness what I found was even more shocking. According to data obtained by Darren Rovell, only 8.01% of the money spent on pink NFL merchandise is going towards cancer research (once you factor in the fact that only around 72% of the proceeds that the American Cancer Society receives go to research). That number seems rather small to me. It seems like if you’re going to donate a month talking about an initiative shouldn’t you let your players wear pink sweatbands year round if they see fit? Shouldn’t the number donated to the ACS be 100% because it’s only a year of your merchandise profits?

My question, as a fan of the NFL, and a fan of merchandise quite frankly, when do the words and the actions line up? Right now I don’t think that they do, I think that what the NFL is saying is “we care! we care! see we have commercials and breast cancer survivors (including Williams’ mother before her passing) come on the field during pre game” is great and there’s no fault found in it. Until you look at what they’re doing, which appears to be ruling with an iron fist time and time again for what appears to just be the sake of control.

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