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Joe Guzzardi: Does ‘buying pink’ really help fight breast cancer?

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Posted: Saturday, October 26, 2013 12:00 am

Exactly three years ago during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wrote a News-Sentinel column titled “Have We Become Excessively Pink?” In my article, I listed my credentials, if you will, as an anti-pink advocate.

My mother, two of my sisters and numerous other relatives and friends have survived breast cancer. For several years, I served on Lodi’s local American Cancer Society board of directors. Like everyone else, I’m aware of breast cancer. Pink doesn’t motivate me to become more involved.

Back in 2010, my concern was that pink mania distracted from the serious issues in battling breast cancer. During the intervening years, the pink fad has expanded from National Football and Major League Baseball games to include college and high school athletic events. When they played the Washington State Cougars, the Oregon Ducks ludicrously wore pink helmets to match their pink cleats, socks, and gloves. And last week at my local high school’s football game, vendors were hawking pink items and having trouble keeping up with the demand.

My critics created the word “pinkwashing” to describe hypocritical corporations and retailers that feign concern about breast cancer but care more about profit.

I was deeply suspicious of the financial motives behind pink and wrote that the sums shared with the ACS “would be small compared to the profits reaped.” Remembering the now-famous line from “All the President’s Men,” spoken by Hal Holbrook playing the infamous “Deep Throat,” I wanted to “follow the money.”

As it turns out, my skepticism was valid. Cork Gaines, a Business Insider investigative journalist who earned a doctorate at Fordham University, confirmed my fears. Using data obtained from the NFL, Gaines found that only 8.01 percent of money spent on pink NFL merchandise goes to the ACS.

Here’s how Gaines breaks it down: For every dollar sold, the retailer gets 50 percent; the manufacturer, 37.5 percent; ACS research, 8.01 percent; ACS administration, 3.24 percent; and the NFL, 1.25 percent.

It’s safe to assume that the same distribution pattern exists wherever similar items are sold outside of the NFL. Pink is money in the bank for retailers and manufacturers; for others involved, the deal is not so sweet.

Even after considering the monetary distribution pattern, unanswered questions remain about where some of the money ultimately goes and who profits. The NFL’s online shop is the most popular place to buy pink, as well as at official team stores and stadiums. In those cases, the NFL and the individual franchises are also the retailer. Whether a portion of their 50 percent mark up on goods the NFL sells directly eventually goes to the ACS is unclear. My educated guess is that the NFL keeps most of the profit.

An opposing argument might be that the NFL isn’t obligated to do anything charitable on behalf of the ACS. Whatever funds the NFL raises is money the ACS wouldn’t otherwise have. Still, I can’t escape the feeling that retailers take advantage of sincere consumers who think that their purchases translate into a significant ACS contribution.

Readers who want to help the ACS should reject pink. Send a tax-deductible donation directly to the ACS. Remember: Even your $10 contribution would net $2 more for the ACS than if you bought a $100 pink pin.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at

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