Just as the NFL deserved to be defended for its heavily-criticized attempt to protect intellectual property that generates over $3 billion a year, the league warrants disdain for not allowing Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams to honor his mother beyond the league-mandated limit on wearing pink.
At its core, the NFL’s support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month through its “A Crucial Catch” campaign is one of the league’s greatest charitable triumphs, and putting pink on the players who want to wear it helps generate significant money for the American Cancer Society through merchandise sales.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved, but a month is a month, and when the calendar turns to November, the pink is gone, something Williams wants to change for himself.
Williams lost his mother to breast cancer in May of last year and also lost four aunts to the disease, so raising awareness and attempting to encourage women to get screened isn’t just a 30-day exercise for the former first-round draft pick.
He wants to keep wearing the pink for the entire season and probably for the rest his career but the NFL, wary of creating a slippery slope, has balked.
Williams’ request to wear pink for the rest of the 2015 season was denied by the NFL because it violates the league’s voluminous equipment rules.
Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams wanted to wear pink all season to honor his mother who lost her battle with breast cancer. The NFL said no.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 13, 2015
If Williams balks and continues to wear pink as part of his uniform come November, he will be hit with a fine of $5,787 for a first offense and it will rise from there. For now Williams plans to continue to dye his dreadlocks pink and also paint his nails, gestures outside the league’s totalitarian control over equipment.
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) September 7, 2014
From a legal standpoint, it’s easy to understand the NFL’s position. If special dispensation is given to a player like Williams that could open the door for others to play activist and embroil the league in controversies it wants no part of.
But that fight is coming anyway, and common sense is never going to hurt you in any court—be it legal or public opinion.
DeAngelo Williams simply wants to honor his mother and his family. Let him.
If a calculated advocate wants to take advantage of that down the line, they will be the ones taking on the shrapnel during litigation.
For now, the NFL need not worry about slipping down a slope that doesn’t exist.
— John McMullen is the national NFL columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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