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Blue prostate cancer flags land Washington refs sexism claims

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

When high school football referees in Washington used blue flags instead of the traditional yellow variety during games over the weekend, they were intending to help promote awareness of prostate cancer, hoping to encourage men to get prostate checks in the process. Instead, they sparked furor about sexism among the state's officials.

Of course, there's a good reason for those claims: The organization who approved the blue flag charity tribute, the Washington Officials Association, is the same one which sanctioned officials for using pink whistles in 2010 to try and raise funds for breast cancer research.

In case you've forgotten, here's how that pink whistle snafu unfolded: In October 2010, a group of Washington high school football officials decided to dedicate their game checks to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and honor breast cancer victims by using pink whistles. In the process, they unintentionally stoked a firestorm that led to threats of lost game checks and suspensions from WOA president Todd Stordahl.

While those threats were initially dropped, the WOA eventually sanctioned the officials involved in the pink whistle charity drive by revoking their rights to work in most high school playoff games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Fast forward to September 16, and state officials were again reaching out for a cancer charity, though this time they were supporting prostate cancer awareness, a condition that affects men, not women. As first reported by Seattle TV network KING-5, this time the WOA was on board with the effort, even though it came with questionable timing; the Susan G. Komen three-day national breast cancer walk was also held over the weekend.

While it's possible that the timing of the two competing charity efforts were purely coincidental, that only seemed to further upset those who support breast cancer awareness, as some made abundantly clear to KING 5.

"If they made such a stink about outlawing it for the breast cancer thing, why are they allowing it for prostate cancer?" says Steve Hamilton, who supports breast cancer research.

For his part, the WOA's president told King5.com that the difference between the two charity efforts was that the blue flag drive had been cleared well in advance by the WOA itself, approval which he claims the 2010 pink whistle effort never received.

While that might provide justification for the WOA's decision to clear one charity outreach effort and not another, it isn't likely to ease frustrations among area residents, who seem to want any officials' charity efforts supported and applauded, regardless of its color scheme and intention.

"They should do pink, they should do green, they should do yellow, they should do blue for every kind of cancer if that's what they want to do, but they have to be fair," breast cancer survivor Bev Johnson told KING 5.

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