Breast Cancer Action says Stop the Distraction – others call for a different awareness focus

As the Green Bay Packers were walloping the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football last night, the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch Day” campaign for breast cancer – which “is focused on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are 40 and older” – was on display at the stadium.  Banners similar to this one appeared in the stadium. Some players wore pink gloves or other pink paraphernalia.  It was the first game of October, the first of many more pink pigskin promotions to come throughout this month.

But the Breast Cancer Action group, well known for its “Think Before You Pink” campaign, calls the NFL campaign “a distraction.”  The group names the NFL as part of “a six-point take-down of pink ribbon cause marketing and the broader culture of “pink” which expands BCAction’s long-standing commitment to addressing exploitation, corporate profiteering and hypocrisy in breast cancer fundraising. The six points, according to Breast Cancer Action, are:

  • The National Football League (NFL) is spreading misinformation about breast cancer by repeating disproven and misleading advice about mammography screening in their “Crucial Catch” campaign.
  • Alhambra Water is pinkwashing by selling plastic polycarbonate water bottles which contain BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to breast cancer.
  • Kohls’ recent “Pink Elephant in the Room” promotion was outrageous profiteering; it exploited concern for women affected by breast cancer to make millions for the company.
  • NASCAR is selling breast cancer awareness t-shirts that say “Check Your Headlights” which degrade women by objectifying and sexualizing women’s breasts and bodies.
  • Hooters’ breast cancer campaigns obscure the harsh reality of breast cancer by perpetuating a story of triumphant survivorship based on positive thinking, beauty tips, and sanitized, carefully chosen images of women.
  • Oriental Trading is spreading empty awareness via its endless supply of plastic pink ribbon trinkets–the company pockets all the money from these sales.

There’s more in an article on, “How the NFL’s breast cancer awareness campaign lies to women.”

If this kind of Pinktober pushback is new to you, be aware that there is a strong groundswell of opposition from many breast cancer advocates.

Always one of the most thoughtful is Gayle Sulik,PhD, who wrote on her blog, “Rethinking Pink: How This Work Started And Why It Continues.”

Another is Jody Schoger, who blogged about “True October,” explaining that the truth she sees in October is “the ground swell to bring metastatic breast cancer issues to light is here.”

Another, Elaine Schattner, wrote,”For This October: A New Kind of Awareness,” with specific suggestions about how the awareness focus might adjust to some of the realities of 2014.

National Breast Cancer Coalition president Fran Visco writes that “It is time for a different strategy. The annual explosion of ‘brightly colored consumer goods’ is not cutting it.”

Some things to think about as you watch NFL games or as you are pummeled with pink marketing anywhere you go this month.


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Comments (6)

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Laurence Alter

October 7, 2014 at 4:43 am

You’re a professor. You know academic sources. You have high-level tastes.

Why not promote the level of information? NOT: some silly low-level crass commercialized National Football League promotion OF WHATEVER? Why not elevate people rather than lower yourself and give credibility to such lower-common-denominator sources like the N.F.L. They’re qualified for professional football; but what else??



Tazia K. Stagg

October 7, 2014 at 2:47 pm

My understanding is that “The blog addresses not only health care news but also advertising, marketing, public relations, medical journals – media messages that may impact the public dialogue about health care.”

It looks like you’re recommending conformity–suggesting that we ought to turn a blind eye to this kind of thing because it’s beneath us. It’s beneath precisely everyone who knows better, right? Yuck.

Why address this? Because it affects people.

Laurence Alter

October 8, 2014 at 3:39 am


“The Green Bay Packers were walloping the Minnesota Vikings….” sounds alot like a personal interest to me. What do you call it?.

I think you missed my general point: try to take your (common-taste?) readers ABOVE and BEYOND such sources like the NFL and its concomitant advertising (as in breast cancer testing). If you could teach – you are collegiate instructor – one idea, let it be: look at the source. Does one see, for example, ‘Think Before You Pink’ advertising in the “New England Journal of Medicine”? In other words, just because you see some public-interest campaign on a street corner (or on televised sports during intermission) doesn’t mean it’s worthy of attention. It must have merit. One way is seeing the venue or source that campaign is shown in.
Now, you are to be commended (and it humbles my elitism) for finding little-known small-town radio stations – which I wouldn’t normally give the time of day to – and applauding their meritorious efforts. Yet I believe this is quite rare; mostly, the vast majority, of your sources that you choose to critique are unbelievably low in stature (“The Daily Mail” comes to mind).
I know you and I have dramatically and drastically different philosophies on this point. I’m sure I’m the lone reader of your site asking you to upgrade the level of reader and quote sources more worthy of one’s intellect. YES, most Brits might read “The Daily Mail” and most U.S. adult males undoubtedly watch NFL sports. Is that IT? Is one to be complacent with this (pretty sad) state of affairs? Don’t you have any ‘academic impulses’ to promote high-level sources. Sure, the “N.E.J.M.” can be wrong along with other prestigious journals. YET, there is a difference: the just-quoted journal has very high standards. Also, I think you would agree: ‘if it looks commercial (or tacky), it is.’ (ex.: the pink ribbon come-on).