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Shutdown Corner

NFL refutes claim that pink merchandise profits are not going where they should

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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(Getty Images)

It's October, which means that the NFL will have its member clubs wearing all sorts of pink paraphernalia to raise awareness for breast cancer. The NFL's official campaign, entitled "A Crucial Catch," has become a major initiative.

The NFL, its clubs, players and the NFL Players Association are proud to support the fight against breast cancer. Our campaign, "A Crucial Catch", in partnership with the American Cancer Society, is focused on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are 40 and older. Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, on-field pink ribbon stencils, special game balls and pink coins - all to help raise awareness for this important campaign.

All apparel worn at games by players and coaches, along with special game balls and pink coins will be auctioned off at NFL Auction, with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society's Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program. The CHANGE program provides outreach and breast cancer screenings to women in underserved communities. The NFL markets being supported in the first year of the program are Atlanta, Baltimore, New England, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Certainly laudable. However, the parallel advertising outreach to fans, inviting them to buy pink NFL gear on the league's official online store, appears to have some questionable financial end games, according to one report.

From Cork Gaines at Business Insider:

When we contacted the NFL 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.

Gaines' article stated that based on a theoretical 100 percent markup, just 70.8 percent of all money collected goes to research and other programs. So, out of every $100 you pay the NFL for pink gear, he asserted, it's estimated that $3.54 goes to actual cancer research, while the NFL keeps about $45, based on the concept of a 100 percent markup.

We contacted the NFL for further clarification, and this is what we were told.

The NFL does not profit from the sale of pink merchandise.  All money the NFL would normally receive from merchandise sales goes to support this program, either through direct funding to ACS or covering the costs of A Crucial Catch. In 2011, the NFL donated $1.5 million directly to ACS from auction/sale of pink product.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy told me that the $3 million given to the ACS from the NFL since the campaign started in 2009 doesn't include donations from fans who have donated on their own.

We're not sure who Business Insider talked to, but the reverberations have already started. Gawker went Full Metal Jacket on the NFL without the benefit of a direct request for clarification (as Gawker is prone to do), and the problem there is that once the motives of a charity are called into question on a national scale, people tend to shy away from said charity, and innocent people could be denied care and treatment if the accusations are false.

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No matter the cause, we probably could have done without this. (Getty Images)

Meaning that, based on what the NFL told us, at least one reporter has some very serious explaining to do.

Some would contend that it doesn't matter whether the bottom line is benefited by an awareness campaign -- after all, however you get there, at least you get there. But if the numbers don't always add up from a charity perspective, or if perception doesn't match reality, it's up to the NFL to eliminate any doubt.

It's also up to reporters to make sure their facts are straight.

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