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NFL

Pinkwash? For Every $100 Of NFL Pink Merchandise Sales, Only $3.54 Goes Toward Cancer Research


The NFL, meanwhile, keeps $45: making it a huge moneymaker for a league that already enjoys nonprofit tax-exempt status. (The league says that it doesn’t actually profit from this, however. See below). So should the NFL get flagged for “pinkwashing”: exploiting a good cause for its own benefit? With its Breast Cancer Awareness “Crucial Catch Campaign” Month, is the league more interested in promoting its brand — especially among women — than it is in actually helping a good cause?

According to Business Insider, the NFL is keeping approximately 90 percent of money from sales of Breast Cancer Awareness gear, like that towel above. And of the money that the American Cancer Society does receive, less than 80 percent of that goes toward actual research.

When we contacted the NFL’s online shop for clarification, we were told 5% of the sales are being donated to the American Cancer Society. If the pink products have a typical 100% mark-up at retail, that means the NFL is keeping 90% of the profit from the sale of Breast Cancer Awareness gear.

And then consider that only 70.8% of money the ACS receives goes towards research and cancer programs. So, for every $100 in sales of pink gear, only $3.54 is going towards research while the NFL is keeping approximately $45 (based on 100% mark-up).

The NFL, however, says that it does not profit from the sales of pink merchandise: the $45 of every $100 made, it says, goes toward the cost of running Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But is that from auctioned game-worn merchandise, or all apparel merchandise? That’s still unclear. From Sports On Earth:

This is where the campaign gets murky. While all proceeds from auctioned game-worn items go to breast cancer causes, the league declines to say what portion of the apparel sales do. Inquiring minds can estimate, however. Ticketmaster limited its 2012 A Crucial Catch contribution to 10 cents for every ticket sold last October (up to $40,000 total), and The New York Times reported that Old Navy donated only five percent of revenues to a foundation via a similar 2011 campaign featuring the Dallas Cowboys. Charlotte Jones Anderson, the daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, supervised this campaign, and Anderson in December was appointed chairwoman of a new NFL foundation that will direct league community efforts.

The bottom line: The league hardly donates much to “fight” breast cancer. You’d need to use scientific notation with negative exponents to express what percentage of the NFL’s annual revenues it contributes via A Crucial Catch. The campaign raised a combined $4.5 million during its first four years (2009-2012), including $1.5 million last year. League-wide revenues approached $8 billion in 2009, when NFL teams earned a median profit of $28.6 million, according to The Economics of the National Football League, a 2012 book edited by Kevin G. Quinn. (The NFL says it plans to donate $23 million to all community causes this year — less than one percent of its likely revenues.)

That 3.54 percentage ratio is a tough number to ignore, no matter how you approach the issue. While Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a noble idea in concept, the jury is out on how much actual good is being done, and whether the NFL is benefiting a lot more than cancer victims. I suppose any amount of money the NFL raises for this cause is a good thing. But I was hoping that in this case the NFL would break the mold, and, you know, be a giant corporation that actually possesses a soul.

Our thanks to Rebecca Ferrell.


  • Seahawk

    That’s about how much goes to cancer research when you donate to a cancer charity (about 5 cents on the dollar.) The rest pays salaries and is re-invested into other devices used to raise money. If you are going to donate money to charity, do some research and make sure they are helping solve a problem, not just bring awareness to it.

  • vaporware

    Looking forward to the next PBS documentary. The Collusion of Pink is more vast and much deeper than the obvious NFL. The breakdown of where that $3.54 goes is sad and depressing-although legal in the States, the offenders should be shipped to China for prosecution.

  • Yablu

    Long line of charities would happily take $3.53 along with that NFL exposure. Promotion is clearly positioned as Breast Cancer AWARENESS. Why hate?

  • Johnny Soccer

    Can we stop parroting this $3.54 number? One lowly worker told Business Insider she didn’t know the actual percentage but thought it was 5%, and everyone took that number and ran with it.

    I’m sure the NFL makes a nice profit off pink gear, but let’s not pretend we’re discussing actual figures here.

  • Anonymous

    Why hate? Because people really think they’re doing something when they make those purchases. And they aren’t really doing much. Because 40,000 women die each year from the disease and for all the money that people believe is going to research… not much progress is being made. Because too many companies are using pink as a marketing tool and making paltry contributions to the real fight against the disease. Because if a company makes billions but donates less than 5% of that, knowledge of that might make people think twice about using them as a way to make a difference. And because millions of women and men around the world are diagnosed, living with or have survived this disease and while large organizations like the NFL make millions of dollars because people think that we’re being served… we’re not. That’s “why hate”.

  • Rick Chandler

    From the BI article: “The NFL wanted to clarify their position. While they did not dispute the numbers above …”

  • jim

    I stopped donating to the charities like United Way, Amer. Cancer Society, etc., I give to only those charities where almost all of the revenue generated are actually turned over to said charity.

  • Steve

    http://www.Promocause.com a MINIMUM of 50% goes to the Non-Profit here

  • miamicane

    So cancer awareness gets huge exposure on TV Twitter ect not to mention that 3.54 per item adds up i bet in the long run.

  • Darth Vader, SR

    All this pink stuff is a bunch of pretentious crap. How about Prostate cancer month? How come we don’t hear about that? NFL players running around, accessorized in pink is just ridiculous.

  • nwkn1g

    Not $3.54 an item, $3.54 out of every $100.00. Perhaps you should re-read the article, it appears you may have missed some of it…

  • Big IP

    Who the hell doesn’t know about breast cancer?

  • Effram

    Sadly most “charities” are businesses that only use a fraction of the money that is donated to them on solving the problem through research or “awareness”.

  • Mohammed

    You picked the wrong item to illustrate your point. Every dime that is made from the sale of the Terrible Towel is donated to charity.

    Specifically, the Allegheny Valley School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.The school provides care for more than 900 people with mental retardation and physical disabilities, including Myron Cope’s autistic son, Danny.

  • sam graves

    That’s not at all true, and the 15 up-votes you received are from pessimistic Debbie Downer’s I suppose. There are definitely some good ones out there like Breast Cancer Research Foundation where AT LEAST 90% or more goes to cancer research programs. Susan.G.Komen is for some reason the one that sooo many women donate to, but is near the bottom of the list when it comes to the percentage amount that is rolled back into fund-raising. Essentially, they are the LAST one you should donate to as only a small percentage of your donation actually goes to cancer research. Also, there are some superb watchdog sites out there that detail how charities spend their money and how much is actually being used for the cause. Here’s a link so everyone can choose their own – https://www.google.com/search?q=charity+watchdog+site&rlz=1C1CHFX_enUS551US551&oq=charity+watchdog+site&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3j69i64l2.5393j0j4&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8#es_sm=122&espv=210&q=charity+watchdog+sites

    Please up-vote so people learn. Thanks.

  • Timothy K. Ready

    I wish everybody in the Komen foundation would get breast cancer and die.

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  • Anonymous

    People act like cancer research will cease to exist if we don’t donate. These companies have tons of money for research without our donations.

  • Squirrel

    Giving one example of a charity that doesnt apply to does not make the statement untrue. Saying “all” is just a quicker way of saying “almost all”. Donating to a charity doesnt help solve the problem, it just makes someone feel better about themselves.

  • Squirrel

    Tell ya what: You give me $100, and ill pass along $3.53 of it to the charity of your choice. Ill even do that for every $100 you give me. The charities would be glad to get the money, wouldnt they?

  • Stephanie

    The trademark to the Terrible Towel was willed to the Allegheny Valley School by Myron Cope. It is a network of campuses and group homes across Pennsylvania for
    people with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. It receives almost all the profits from sales of the towels and receives all the proceeds. The picture above does a disservice to Pittsburgh and the Terrible Towel and to Mr. Myron Cope.

  • Seahawk

    I hope you didn’t think that was my point, that we shouldn’t contribute to causes that make the world a better place? The fact it makes the donor feel good let’s you know it’s a positive action.

  • Seahawk

    Cheers. Well put.

  • Rick Chaffe

    All this pink for cancer promotion needs to go away. It is unlikely that there will be a cure for cancer. The drug and medical companies won’t allow it. They make too much money from drugs, procedures and equipment to let a cure get in the way of profits. Companies have climbed on the band wagon because they know a cash cow when they see it. They hardly have to promote the products. Just make it pink, donate a paltry sum to cancer and people will throw money at them all day long.

  • Squirrel

    not necessarily. Its only a positive action if what they expect to happen actually happens.

  • Seahawk

    Which is why you take the time to research what you are spending your money on. Same for any investment or purchase. Helping those in your own community is usually the safest bet, food banks, etc.

  • Darlene

    Do more research -there are charities with better ratios.

  • Seahawk

    It would be a lot more effective if you answered the post that you disagreed with instead of the one that is saying the same thing.

  • Seahawk

    Less than four dollars of every $100 goes to the charity. The percentage of that which goes to cancer research is probably about fifty cents.

  • CPL in SoCal

    Other than the likely hood of the “Sales Clerk” at the NFL “Online Store” saying that 5% of the sale of the “Pink” merchandise is donated to the ACS, 100% of this story is fabricated. And fabricated by somebody who has a complete disconnect with how a business operates.

    The author, who by his own admission, is absolutely clueless regarding the mark up margins of the product(s), however applies a 100% mark up for the sake of his story. The author makes no mention or is completely unaware of the associated multiple franchise related fees, promotional costs, cost to carry and distribute inventory, costs absorbed due to damaged and unsold merchandise or the margin proportioned to the overhead and payrolls of the selling stores; but chooses to fabricate a margin and build a story around the lie. I also noticed that the author hangs on the 3.54% number without mentioning as many times that the missing 1.46% of the 5% of the donation that he assumes went toward the ACS’s administration costs. But that is probably because both numbers are guesstimates by the author, part of his fabricated story.

    If you are in business you understand the difference between “Gross Sales” (The total amount of sales), “Adjusted Gross Income” (Income after cost of goods sold) and “Net Profit” (Profit after all appropriated expenses). Rarely does a retail business retain a 5% profit after all costs. To donate 5% of your “Gross Sale” dips heavily into the “Net Profit”. The ACS understands how a retail business works and has been very vocal with their sincere thanks.

    My observation is that this article was written by a jealous, angry, narrow minded and uneducated and/or inexperienced in the business world person with specific intent to inflame the readers. Rick Chandler, the author, knows that he is the smartest person in the room and since he is unaware of the difference between “Gross Sales” and “Net Profit”, he assumes you don’t know the difference either and will share in his jealous anger.

  • XKCD

    Let’s be real here. If a semi-intelligent person actually cared about helping further a cancer cure, they wouldn’t waste their money on pink gear that mainly serves as something to prance around in to “show support” where only 4/100ths of their cash actually went towards a cure. Rather, they would ditch the merchandise and research charities, find the ones that keep the lowest % for themselves, and donate pure cash to those. That would help cancer research much more than buying any of this profiteering, self-promoting junk.

  • Anonymous

    Looking around the rest of this page, I see that sportsgrid.com also supports breasts, given the skimpy outfits Paulina Gretzky and “MLB’s 50 Hottest” are wearing in their “Wagspotting” photos.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.peterson.739 Joshua Peterson

    this is why i never donate to shit

  • Find The Cure

    Pretty sad considering how much money is changing hands.

  • Sam

    One idea in light of this article: Why not take an awareness campaign to an issues where awareness would make a real difference? The NFL should go yellow for suicide awareness:https://medium.com/p/ffeae39fadeb.


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