Think Before You Pink: The NFL’s Profiting from Breast Cancer

As breast cancer awareness month comes to an end so does the pink hair streaks, ribbons, and apparel. Stores are beginning to put away their front and center “Breast Cancer Awareness” displays usually full of light pink apparel, coffee mugs, tumblers, and many more goods. Though the whole idea of breast cancer awareness month is great- to raise awareness for a terrible disease (the cancer with the second highest death rate for women), how much are the businesses marketing these products personally profiting off of them? Where does all the money go? One of the most despicable uses of breast cancer awareness for personal gain comes from one of the biggest, most highly viewed corporations in America: the NFL.

It’s ironic in itself that the NFL spends the whole month of October promoting awareness to a disease that primarily affects women considering its long term history of sexual and domestic abuse issues by its players. Why would the NFL choose to publicly raise awareness for this disease verses something that more primarily affects their players such as concussions? A P.R. scheme perhaps? By marketing the NFL as a women-loving, women-supporting organization the gains are endless. It works to distract from the bad publicity their players are getting as well as attempts to open the mostly male dominated market to women.

Throughout the month the NFL markets a plethora of light pink NFL jerseys, footballs bearing the signature pink ribbon, and many other breast cancer inspired NFL goods. So where does all the profit from these goods go? Unfortunately, not as much goes to breast cancer research as one would hope. Last year, statistics came out that only about 8% of the revenue acquired from selling NFL pink merchandise actually goes to cancer research. The below graphic shows the division of profit all the involved parties recieve:

From this graphic, it appears that the NFL is receiving the tiniest chunk of profit (a measly 1.25%). What this doesn’t show is that the retailers, who receive the highest chunk of 50%, are primarily the NFL. The merchandise is chiefly sold on the NFL website and at NFL stadiums, therefore that whole portion of the profit is going to either the NFL as a corporation or individual teams.  Though this doesn’t account for cost of production, it is clear that the NFL is still getting the most out of this deal. As of October 5th of this year, the NFL has given a total of $4.5 million to breast cancer research- which is great except for that fact that the NFL itself is a $10 billion corporation.

Organizations like “Think Before You Pink” help sort out which markets are most beneficial to breast cancer awareness. Obviously, the most foolproof way to make sure your money is going to cancer research is to donate directly to the American Cancer Society. The organization encourages “more transparency and accountability for companies that take part in cancer fundraising.” The fact that this even needs to be stated is, in my opinion, ridiculous. I encourage my classmates to think about what you are looking to achieve when purchasing a breast cancer awareness product and question from the source where exactly it is that your money is going.

Work Cited:


One thought on “Think Before You Pink: The NFL’s Profiting from Breast Cancer

  1. This blog points brings up some interesting points about where and how much money actually benefits breast cancer research. It reminds of when I was about 10 years old, and I desperately wanted a Livestrong bracelet (Lance Armstrong’s non-profit). I distinctly remember that it was kind of cool that the proceeds went towards cancer research, but I really only wanted it because all my friends had them, and I wanted to hop on the bandwagon. It would be interesting to do a survey asking people whether or not they purchased breast cancer NFL gear for the charitable donation, or so that they could fit in with the new trend.


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