Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Should The NFL Trade Its Pink Ribbon For A Purple One?

The game of football is sacred to American culture. So sacred that practicing football fans (I too am one) are fully aware our Sunday heroes are trading gridiron glory for years off their lives.  Many players who play the game as it's currently enjoyed are know it can be an early death wish as head injuries are commonly suffered on the field and are often life altering in their later years.

If you've watched any football games this month of October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, then you've probably noticed the eye-popping pink in the player's uniforms and scattered throughout the stadium.  The color pink has been branded the official color of breast cancer awareness and has been a stroke of marketing genius for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.  Founded in 1982 by Nancy Brinker after her sister, Susan Komen, lost her battle with breast cancer.  Since then the Susan G. Komen for the Cure has grown into a marketing juggernaut, raising over $2 billion dollars for breast cancer research and becoming the world's largest non-profit source for breast cancer research funding.  Most importantly, it's message of regular check-ups and early detection of breast cancer has saved countless lives.

The National Football League began promoting breast cancer awareness a few seasons ago, a movement that was kicked off by Tanya Synder, the wife of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Synder, who is a breast cancer survivor.

My life has been touched by both diseases.  My family tree includes breast cancer survivors as well as two grandmothers who passed away without any recollection of who I was.  Both breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease impact lives in equally devastating ways and are undoubtedly both worthy causes.  I don't write this to be controversial, but with legions of former players suffering from Alzheimer's and Dementia and a growing connection between the game and the disease, shouldn't the NFL trade its pink ribbons for a purple one?  

I fully understand the conflict that the NFL faces.  They currently back an incredibly worthy cause.  Also, the public relations playbook doesn't call for associating the game to concussions and permanent head trauma.  However, this is a problem the NFL can no longer leave on the sidelines.  It needs to be more proactive than it has been in the past or the problems will worsen.  Wouldn't wearing purple on Sunday's, despite the contradiction being made, also send a strong message of the genuine concern they have for what its retirees currently struggle with and its employees will one day will one day struggle with.

I understand that associating the NFL (and the game of football) with Alzheimer's disease in such a public way is not an easy thing to do.  Initially, it puts the league in a very vulnerable spot.  However, a public partnership with the Alzheimer's Association acknowledges that they care deeply that its employees are at a significantly greater risk of acquiring the diseases than you or I but also that it won't rest until that fact changes.    

Do you agree or disagree that this would be a smart public relations move by the NFL?  As always, thank you for reading and commenting. 

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