Every October, American football fans are treated to the specter of watching their hulking heroes wrap themselves in pink for the NFL's "A Crucial Catch" campaign, a partnership in which the league raises money and projects goodwill for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
And while the proceedings have never escaped criticism from either fans or observers, generally speaking, the league comes out looking benevolent as the pink merch firehose douses stadiums, fans, and players.
However, as the campaign enters its sixth year, it's hard to imagine anything will look more tone deaf than the NFL trumpeting its commitment to the health of women amid a horrifying spate of domestic violence stories. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month just weeks away (and with, for example, former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice planning to appeal his indefinite suspension), many have commented on how the league's pink initiative will make for an uncomfortable national moment.
Yesterday, on Meet the Press, Bryant Gumbel was not sanguine about the pink, saying acidly that the NFL is "good at masquerading" and "they are going to pinkwash once again":
Following Gumbel's appearance, the Meet the Press panel chimed in, adding that if the league knows what's best for it, the NFL will change pink to purple, the color for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is also observed in October.
Over at the Boston Globe, Ben Volin noted that others are advocating for the NFL to switch gears here:
The National Network to End Domestic Violence created a petition last Thursday — before the Rice tape was released — to see NFL teams wear purple in October to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence, in addition to wearing pink.
Of course, even as politicians and organizations call for NFL Commish Roger Goodell's resignation, the league will do what it wants. But with the national gimlet eye fixed on the NFL more than ever before, the league's "A Crucial Catch" campaign will be revealed for what it is: a mostly symbolic gesture.
NFL's "Pink" campaign: $4.5 million for breast cancer awareness since '09. Ice bucket challenge: $111.1 million in a month.— Eric Wilbur (@GlobeEricWilbur) September 10, 2014
Last year, a Business Insider breakdown of the NFL's hawking of pink football merch shed a shocking light on how little of the money actually goes to cancer research (and how much of it goes to the NFL, which already generates $10 billion in revenue annually):
In other words, for every $100 in pink merchandise sold, $12.50 goes to the NFL. Of that, $11.25 goes to the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the NFL keeps the rest. The remaining money is then divided up by the company that makes the merchandise (37.5%) and the company that sells the merchandise (50.0%), which is often the NFL and the individual teams."
Meanwhile, another shocking percentage, delivered by 538, is 55.4 percent—the relative arrest rate among NFL players for domestic violence compared to the national average for men 25-29. It's the league's worst category.