My husband is an avid football fan. There was tension between us related to football when I supported the University of Southern California (I worked there for a year or so at the turn of the century) over the University of Michigan in a Rose Bowl game, but in general we get along just fine during football season. He watches plenty of football on tv, while I have a detached, but informed, interest during the regular season and rarely watch more than a quarter here and there. By the time playoffs come around, I have chosen a team to support and I take a more active interest. This has worked out just fine for our relationship over the years. Best part: grocery shopping in Chicago and New Orleans during game time!
Enter the NFL’s pink spin to October. Poor hubby is minding his own business, watching football, enjoying the action and here BC awareness shows up, adding a new spin to his football viewing experience. Not only is the pink ribbon in my face this month, reminding me of my BC experience, but it is in his, as well. As a caregiver of a survivor, the heightened focus forces him to relive our experience–and listen to my commentary when I go off, questioning the point. The reliving makes him sad and the rants take away the escapism of the football experience.
Terry is a creative in the advertising business so he appreciates the marketing genius behind cause marketing. We have also had some interesting discussions the past year or so as I have waddled through the world of breast cancer, trying to come to an understanding of the many issues surrounding this nasty disease. However, when it comes to football, he’d rather take a time out from BC.
So, I tried last weekend to be open-minded and quiet. Things were off to a good start when I realized the proceeds for Sunday’s game were going to the American Cancer Society (I support them, because they support me). But I was soon really uncomfortable with the commentary of the announcers telling their viewers that mammograms and treatment lead to a cure. I was also unhappy with certain commercials spinning the NFL as a heroic organization for spreading awareness. I had to leave the room. I’ve taught consumer education a few times as a social studies teacher and know when I’m being manipulated. This was manipulation, pure and simple, and I really can’t put any kind of positive spin on it.
Mary Elizabeth Williams rocked a piece in Salon this week Stop pinkwashing the NFL! Mary writes:
There is so much about the NFL’s heavy push toward “awareness” that smells like cynicism, it’s hard to know where to begin. Take, for instance, the paltry 5 percent that the league gives to the American Cancer Society on the sales of its merchandise to “support the fight against breast cancer.” Take the serious questions Sports on Earth’s Ryan Basen has raised over how much of the Crucial Catch campaign’s money goes to actually fighting breast cancer. Take the fact that the NFL says it’s trying to hammer home “the importance of annual screenings” – even though, as Peggy Orenstein pointed out in a meticulous, eye-opening Times piece earlier this year, a mammogram can “reduce, by a small percentage, the number of women who are told they have late-stage cancer, but it is far more likely to result in overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment, including surgery, weeks of radiation and potentially toxic drugs.”
Here’s a reminder: “Awareness” does not “cure” cancer. (“Cure” being a stupid, inaccurate and highly fraught word anyway.) Annual screenings do not “cure” cancer either.
I truly appreciate when people want to understand my experience with breast cancer and offer support. I want people to help fund research to increase treatments and fundraisers are a good way of doing that. I just wish the NFL wasn’t pinkwashing this opportunity.