The XX Factor

Can Football Take Back Pink?

Andre Fluellen of the Detroit Lions wears a pink cap for breast cancer awareness at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.

Photograph by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

You’ve surely noticed that it’s breast cancer awareness month. As Stacey Torres pointed out in yesterday’s post, you can “hardly turn around in the supermarket aisle without bumping into something swathed in Pepto-Bismol pink.” It’s not the supermarket that caught my eye, though, but the NFL. Football has gone far beyond sewing a few pink ribbons on sleeves. Players are wearing pink cleats, pink wrist bands, pink gloves. They’re using pink towels. There’s pink all over the sidelines and the stadiums.

As far as breast cancer is concerned, you can be of two minds about all that pink. “More money and earlier detection,” Stacey also noted, “don’t actually translate into reducing the chances of women dying of the disease,” and there are those who’d prefer you left your bright pink demands for hope and belief at home. But I found myself looking at the pink through the eyes of a little boy who loves bright colors, sitting on the couch and watching as a highlight reel of one football playing manly man after another flashes by, all gloriously accessorized. Pink, girly? Did you see that tackle?

Adults may associate the pink with breasts and know that although breast cancer affects men too (as family members and as victims), it’s often seen as a women’s cause. And there are cynics who say that this pink push is less about breast cancer than about the NFL’s marketing to female fans. But for a whole pack of kids who are lucky enough to be able to skip breast cancer awareness, October has become an unexpected chance to see pink as a cool color, not a gender stigmatizer. For that reason, if no other, I’m totally into the pink socks.