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October 9, 2013

For every $100 of NFL pink merchandise sales, only $3.54 goes toward cancer research

by Jared

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.


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