Starting next season, NFL teams will be allowed to choose which type of cancer they wish to raise awareness of in October, which traditionally has been breast cancer awareness month for the league.
The NFL informed teams of the change in a conference call last week, the MMQB.com reported Tuesday. Teams can still support breast cancer if they wish, but will be able to support other cancer causes, as long as a form of the disease is screenable and detectable.
The NFL, since 2009, has allowed players to wear pink accessories and has featured the color on fields and sidelines. While the NFL has raised almost $15 million for the American Cancer Society through its campaign, it also has drawn criticism from those who suspect the pink initiative is a way to make more money through merchandise sales.
Next year, the NFL's campaign will still be named "A Crucial Catch," but there won't be one signature color, the MMQB reported, which will make the league find alternatives to merchandise sales to raise funds.
"The truth is, as we transition in 2017, it will be a different kind of year," Anna Isaacson, the NFL's vice president of social responsibility, told the MMQB.com. "Once we see how that goes, we will know more for 2018. We hope we raise, if not the same, more than we have, of course. The pressure is on to think about how we can do that. That's the goal, but I wouldn't say we have solved that yet."
The seeds for change were planted in 2014 through a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell from the Houston Texans' Devon Still, who suggested the month of October shouldn't be limited to breast cancer awareness for the NFL, the MMQB reported. Still was replying to a letter from Goodell, who had sent a message of support to Still, whose daughter Leah was fighting stage 4 neuroblastoma (Leah Still has been in remission for more than a year now).
Goodell told Still about the league's planned change last fall, according to the MMQB, when Still was among players who visited the league office to discuss the "My Cause, My Cleats" initiative, which began this season.
The "My Cause, My Cleats" campaign took place in Week 13 when players were allowed to wear their own signature cleats which drew attention to a charity they supported.
"It lets me know that he's listening," Still told the MMQB.com. "For a long time, we have been supporting causes close to the heads of the NFL. To find out they are really following through with this, it makes me feel like the players are gaining more of a voice."