Green Shoes, The NFL, and Mental Health Stigma

The NFL is making a “Crucial Catch” this month but it has nothing to do with Mental Health. Instead, they have been partnered with various breast cancer organizations to raise awareness and funds for battling breast cancer.

Participation started back in 2008 with a myriad of events as evidenced in this article, “NFL Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. This year, the awareness campaign continues. Not only do players wear pink gear, but it is also auctioned off to raise funds for research. Which, in theory, is a great idea, and as someone who has lost a family member to breast cancer, I understand the desire to increase awareness and provide funds for research.

As a football fan, however, I hate the month of October. I cannot stand pink. I have hated the colour ever since I brilliantly decided at age 7 that Pepto Bismol Pink was a terrific colour for my walls and I lived in that Pepto “Abismol” Pink room for nearly 5 years before escaping it into a soothing forest green room with merlot trim.

My point here is not about the colour. It’s about the NFL ignoring an awareness week which occurs during the month of October.

In case you do not follow mental health news OR the NFL, there has been a lot of discussion regarding Brandon Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats during tonight’s Bears v. Giants (don’t get me started on the Giants’ 0-5 giddyup to the season because that’s a whole ‘nother post) game. The NFL flat out told Marshall he couldn’t do it. Then they said he could but that he would be fined. Marshall plans to pay the fine and match it with a charity donation. A donation most articles make clear will go to a cancer-care organization with the mention that he is also trying to work out details of donating to an organization making a difference in the Mental Health World.

Here’s the thing, though, from my perspective – with the big brouhaha the NFL has made regarding Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats, it seems to the casual observer as if they do not want to raise any awareness regarding Mental Health issues. On the other hand, however, their very refusal and the back and forth with Marshall does have people talking about his condition and desire to raise awareness. The NFL’s aversion to Marshall’s desire to raise awareness on the field also makes it seem, to me, that the NFL cares more about the state of a woman’s breasts vs. the state of her mind.

Marshall struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, something an article in SI from May 2012 describes as evidence of the strides the NFL has made in making the mental health of players matter:

The hope is to create a stigma-free environment in which players feel more comfortable working through their mental health issues. Bears receiver Brandon Marshall reached a breakthrough of sorts last July, when he announced that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder; the moment hints at the strides engagement programs are making behind the scenes.


The NFL also runs a Life Line specifically for players, former players, and their families, accessible on the web and via phone. The Life Line was launched in 2012. I wasn’t aware of it until today as I was Googling for this piece.

“There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to personnel and fans at the time. (quoted from CNN) 

In addition, the NFL has been adding more and more psychologists to behind the scenes team rosters, something the previously mentioned SI article details.

With this internal attention to the mental health of their players and families, isn’t it time the NFL brought some of their powerful presence in the psyche of the American male to the table and made mental health awareness an issue? With the loss of Junior Seau, last year’s incident with Kansas City’s Jovan Belcher, Paul Oliver’s recent suicide and the loss of several other players in the same manner, the NFL needs to do more than just support mental health behind the scenes because without public action, it is all too easy to assume that nothing is being done. It is also extremely easy to assume there is no support when you have the NFL threatening a player wanting to do something as simple as wear a different colour cleat to raise awareness for Mental Health issues, something said player struggles with himself.

I get that October is taken for Breast Cancer Awareness.

All I’m asking for is one weekend where the players wear Green, as Brandon Marshall wants to do tonight, to raise awareness for Mental Health Issues. If they can do it for Breast Cancer and raise millions of dollars for research and awareness campaigns, imagine what they could do if they dedicated the same amount of energy to Mental Health research and awareness, particularly in a sport with a hard-core dedicated male audience taught by society NOT to talk about their emotions.

For now, though, I guess we will suffer through the month o’pink and hope everyone has healthy boobs instead of healthy minds.



Whatever Wednesday: Five million reasons to hate pink

This post has been mulling in my head for the past week and a half.

Before I get started, let me say that I have lost several family members to cancer, including an Aunt to Breast Cancer when I was a mere five years old. In fact, it was her death that would be the first of many. I lost a second cousin to cancer, a Great Aunt, two Grandmothers and Grandfather, and I lost a very dear first cousin to suicide when it was discovered his Hodgkins lymphoma had returned. While I have not battled cancer myself, I have known all too well the heartache and power with which it heartlessly rips through families.

Pink sucks. It’s sucked since I was about seven. My parents decided to repaint my room and, in a stroke of brilliance, decided to let me pick the color. At the time, I was mad about pink. I chose a hot pink. They tried to talk me out of it by telling me my WHOLE room would be that color. But, as the insistent child, up it went. You know how hard it is to not look at the bottle of Pepto Bismol on the antacid aisle at the pharmacy? Imagine a WHOLE room lined with those bottles. Yeap. That? Was my childhood bedroom. It left me scarred for life. In fact, I am convinced having girls and having pink explode all over my life is some sort of cruel cosmic joke.

That bedroom was in New Jersey. I spent the better part of my childhood there. My first grandmother died on Thanksgiving Day, 1988. I remember our parents shuffling all of us into their bedroom to sit us down on their bed as they told us she had lost her battle with Ovarian Cancer. At first I blinked, then I wept, wailed, and then? Then I had to suck it up to go to our OTHER grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving festivities.

The following year, our other grandmother was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. She lost her battle not long after her diagnosis if memory serves correctly. We had moved to Virginia. One night, I screamed, cried, and wailed to God. I didn’t understand why He had to take both of my grandmothers so close together. I begged him for her to heal. I begged Him to let us keep her. I can still feel those tears on my cheek, the screams as they wrenched from deep within me and swirled upwards through my throat and out of my lips up to God.

I was in New Jersey with my father when she passed away. My Grandfather (the one married to my grandmother who died from Ovarian Cancer), let me stay up late that night. I watched Arsenio Hall for the first time. I was barely a teenager.

Somehow I managed to get through the next few years without experiencing another death. And then. Then.


On March 15, 1998, my dad’s father lost his battle with the same cancer his wife had battled – Colon. Just 19 days prior, my other grandfather had died from complications with Diabetes and Myasthenia Gravis. I had nothing to give. I had panic attacks for the first time in my life. I was physically wracked with grief and would literally wail and thrash myself to a blackout or sleep for months. I had no normal left.

My cousin’s suicide was not long before the deaths of my grandfathers. I had never known someone who had killed themselves before my cousin. I felt angry. I felt left behind. But at the same time, I understood. I knew he felt trapped, scared, and had no desire to fight back against a disease he had already fought so vigorously. The battle had been lost before it even started. I forgave him.

But I have digressed.

Two weekends ago, on Sunday Night Football, the Giants were playing. As a huge Giants fan, I turned on the game.

And there… there on the FOOTBALL Field….

was PINK.

Not on the cheerleaders. ON THE PLAYERS.


What the eff???

Eli? Pink? For real? How much of a bump in pay did they give you to put that crap on???

I am so sorry, but Pink should be the LAST color I see on the football field.

The football field is for men. Muscled men who tackle each other effortlessly yet violently to the ground. Men who throw the pigskin across several yards in search of a touchdown. Mud covered men, manly men. NOT men who wear pink. Those men? Belong on the golf course. NOT on the gridiron.

Want to know how much the NFL spent on “pinking” up the players?


That’s right. FIVE MILLLION Dollars. Just so we would see the color pink and gain some “breast cancer” awareness. (Yanno, just in case we missed the giant Pepto Bismol bottle of pink which has splattered over every single last product Americans buy these days)

Five Million dollars spent on chin straps, shoes, gloves but NOT on actual research.

Five Million dollars to spread the cancer of Pink to the one sacred place American men had left. Do you seriously think American men are going to see their favorite players in pink and then go home to remind their wives, sisters, mothers, aunts, etc, to feel their boobies because they might get cancer? Or do you think it will make THEM think twice about getting breast cancer themselves? NO.

(It’s been pointed out to me that the gear the players are wearing will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society and Team Charities. Which makes it a little more bearable but I still maintain my original viewpoint which is that PINK has no place on the football field)

What about all the other products carrying pink? Chips. EGGS. Yes, EGGS, Apparel, anything you can possibly imagine. And this one really takes the cake – Purina Cat Chow Cat Nap for the Cure. Seriously??? REALLY??????

What if you spent the money you pay out for a $70 water bottle DIRECTLY on research? What could we do then?

What about all the other types of cancer out there? Are we forgetting them? Remember all those relatives I lost to cancer? Only ONE of them succumbed to Breast Cancer. Where’s the Ovarian Cancer ribbon? The Colon Cancer ribbon? Or Hodgkins Lymphoma ribbon?

Here’s something else to think about – it’s totally cool to “Walk for the Cure” and have team names like “Save the Ta-Ta’s” but heaven forbid we try to “Walk for Breastfeedng” with team names like “Eat from the Ta-Ta’s” as women tromped through the streets whilst nursing their wee babes? Can you IMAGINE the uproar??

Why is it only okay to talk about breasts if they have cancer or are being sexualized?

What’s wrong with us?

What’s wrong with us that we can’t even donate to a good cause without expecting something in return? Has American society become that gluttonous? That callous and numb? What happened to good old-fashioned caring? For the good of it?

When the hell did it become necessary to pink-wash American products?

You know it’s only a matter of time before we’re drinking out of beer bottles shaped like boobs (okay, so the men would like that), while dressed head to toe in pink, living in pink houses, driving pink cars, and watching Pink-tinted TV’s, right?

It’s a Pink world. We just live here.


Is the new cancer.

And it’s terminal.


(If you MUST go Pink, please check out Think Before You Pink Postcards. At LEAST try be responsible about it)