Pick Your Awareness Month Wisely
The latest issue involving the National Football League isn’t about a player being arrested for drunk driving (right now), but about a player with a troubled past trying to do the right thing and getting fined for it.
During last Thursday’s game, Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears chose to wear green shoes to support mental illness awareness. The game occurred during Mental Illness Awareness Week and on Depression Screening Day.
Right Idea, Wrong Colors
Sounds nice, but wearing colors that are not part of your team uniform or not officially approved by the NFL is a violation of league rules. And in October, approved colors mean pink, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). The NFL has pink gear at every game—from towels to penalty flags, and donates a portion of the sales of pink merchandise to cancer research, although mostly to its own “A Crucial Catch” cancer awareness advertising.
Marshall wasn’t just trying to be different. He has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) after a number of incidents, including drunk driving, domestic violence and getting stabbed by his wife. He wanted to raise awareness, even though he knew he would face consequences. The NFL fined Marshall $5,250, which he paid, and he donated an equal amount to his own BPD charity. He then auctioned the green shoes and raised another $3,601 for charity.
Bad PR 7, NFL 0
This current incident is just another example of the NFL missing the mark. Its huge promotion for BCAM is facing backlash because very little of the money raised goes to cancer research. Meanwhile, a player with his own troubled past tries to raise awareness for a pretty big issue and gets fined. At the same time, the NFL is dealing with continued bad and even criminal behavior among its players and drunkenness at games that has made longtime season ticketholders head back home to their living rooms.
Perhaps the NFL can reconsider its awareness sponsorships. Mental illness and substance abuse are intertwined for many people who struggle with both and football players and fans are no exception. Putting those issues at the forefront for people who watch and play the game—some of whom drink a lot of alcohol while watching—could go a long way toward reducing the stigma of mental health issues and addiction.