Surely, you couldn’t help but notice the proliferation of pink all over the NFL these past two weeks in support of breast cancer awareness month. As with last year, I wondered why they do this for an entire month. Wouldn’t a week have almost as big of an impact? It’s a great cause, but the image-conscious NFL regularly fines players for wearing non-standard socks. It was all very puzzling.
Yesterday, Cork Gaines at Business Insider may have uncovered an ulterior motive:
According to [NFL.com], by purchasing pink items in the NFL Shop, fans can “support the fight against breast cancer with pink NFL breast cancer awareness gear.” Of course, there is a huge difference between supporting “awareness” and donating money to research. In the case of the former, most of the money ends up in the pockets of billionaire NFL owners.
When we contacted the NFL’s online shop for clarification, we were told 5% of the sales are being donated to the American Cancer Society. If the pink products have a typical 100% mark-up at retail, that means the NFL is keeping 90% of the profit from the sale of Breast Cancer Awareness gear.
And then consider that only 70.8% of money the ACS receives goes towards research and cancer programs. So, for every $100 in sales of pink gear, only $3.54 is going towards research while the NFL is keeping approximately $45 (based on 100% mark-up) [Note: see update below].
Erin Ryan at Jezebel quickly fanned the flames, calling the NFL’s campaign against breast cancer a “total scam”:
But what about awareness?! Surely the NFL is helping keep people aware and alert and vigilant that at any moment, breast cancer could be lurking around a corner in a dark alley waiting with a hot pink switchblade to steal your purse and boobs. The thing about awareness is that it’s all but impossible to quantify — and everyone knows about breast cancer. If you asked 100 people if they’re aware that breast cancer is a thing and that it’s almost impossible to predict and most often affects women, I’d bet that most of them would nod before slowly backing away from you. Breast cancer awareness is so ubiquitous that if deadly diseases attended the same high school, breast cancer would probably be voted prom queen. The “awareness” that comes from the NFL’s sales of pink branded items doesn’t justify the extent to which the league is taking advantage of consumers’ good intentions to pad their wallets. Even if no NFL player ever touched another pink thing again, Americans would go right on being aware of the disease. Unless the Buffalo Jills or New Orleans Saintsations cheerleaders are holding up signs that show women how to give themselves breast self-exams or tickets come with 5 page printouts of places low income women can obtain breast health screening for low or no cost, the type of awareness the NFL is providing is useless, vague garbage.
Doug Farrar at Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner contacted the NFL for comment and got this response:
The NFL does not profit from the sale of pink merchandise. All money the NFL would normally receive from merchandise sales goes to support this program, either through direct funding to ACS or covering the costs of A Crucial Catch. In 2011, the NFL donated $1.5 million directly to ACS from auction/sale of pink product.
Concise, lawyerly response notwithstanding, I’m not inclined to give the NFL the benefit of the doubt on this one.
If you’ve been to an NFL game in the last couple years, you’ve noticed that A LOT of women buy these jerseys. Do you have a guess at what they cost?
Gaines’ estimate that these jerseys have a 100% mark-up is EXTREMELY conservative. Do you think there is any WAY that the NFL, purchasing in bulk volume, pays anywhere NEAR $50 for each of these jerseys? Even if the NFL does pay that much for these jerseys – which, again, it definitely doesn’t – this does not represent their true cost. Reebok, which produced the jerseys last year, paid $250 million for its 10-year NFL contract. Nike, which produces them now, is paying $1.1 billion over five years.
Finally, are we to believe that all of the proceeds from the sales of these jerseys, the dozens of other pink products, and the auctions do actually go towards “covering costs,” but there was only $1.5 million left to give to the ACS in 2011? If this is the truth, then the NFL presides over a horrifically inefficient cost structure. If in fact this is not a cynical money grab, it’s an example of intolerable incompetence.
During Roger Goodell’s dictatorial tenure, the NFL continues to cede the benefit of the doubt in scenarios like this. The replacement referee debacle corrupted the integrity of games for three weeks over the equivalent of nickels and dimes (and after watching that transpire, do we really think that this league is careless with the costs of the breast cancer program?). This is a league that punishes offensive player Matt Slauson $10,000 for a hit that ends Brian Cushing’s season while fining defensive player Nick Perry $15,000 for hitting Andrew Luck in the shoulder pads. (At least Slauson didn’t wear the wrong hat. THEN, he would have been in some trouble.)
The Saints Bountygate suspensions, meanwhile, continue to be upheld on insufficient evidence. The most egregious of which is Scott Fujita, who is suspended for one game despite the fact that Roger Goodell has acknowledged that Fujita did not actually participate in the alleged Bounty Program. This of course did not stop Goodell from writing a condescending, paternalistic letter.
Via ESPN, Goodell wrote to Fujita that he was “surprised and disappointed by the fact that you, a former defensive captain and a passionate advocate for player safety, ignored such a program and permitted it to continue. … If you had spoken up, perhaps other players would have refused to participate and the consequences with which we are now dealing could have been avoided.”
What. A. Prick.
Fujita’s response, per Adam Schefter, was brilliant:
The Commissioner says he is disappointed in me. The truth is, I’m disappointed in him. His positions on player health and safety since a 2009 congressional hearing on concussions have been inconsistent at best. He failed to acknowledge a link between concussions & post-career brain disease, pushed for an 18-game regular season, committed to a full season of Thursday night games, has continually challenged players’ rights to file workers compensation claims for on-the-job injuries, and he employed incompetent replacement officials for the start of the 2012 season. His actions or lack thereof are by the league’s own definition, “conduct detrimental”.
Roger Goodell and the NFL owners have not shown us that they are above lining their own pockets under the guise of raising money and awareness for breast cancer. Remember this for the next three weeks as the NFL players and coaches continue to wear pink apparel.
Sorry to be so depressing on a Friday, you guys. Let’s get to the picks:
Last Week: 4-10
This Week (so far): 0-1
Last Week: 8-6
This Week (so far): 0-1
Cincinnati (-1) @ Cleveland
Ryan: The Bengals stumbled last week against a Dolphins team that we are collectively realizing is better than we thought. The Bengals offense in that game was UGLY, though. Outside of AJ Green, there is nobody that can make big plays or even get in the endzone.
The Browns, meanwhile, are a rudderless 0-5. Since losing 17-16 to the Eagles in Week 1, Cleveland has lost each game by at least a touchdown. One of these was a 34-27 loss Week 2 in Cincinnati in which the score was closer than the flow of the game. Bengals cover.
Asif: Trent Richardson is awesome, but the Browns defense is so awful that he really only gets to play for the first half of games. The good news this week is that the Bengals defense is awful too so this strangely could end up being a shootout. Bengals cover. Side note — when the Browns get the first pick (and they will) do they take Geno Smith? I’m guessing not, but Brandon Weeden sucks, and he’s already like 50, so maybe they should get a decent quarterback for once.
Indianapolis @ NY Jets (-3)
Ryan: Lost in my anguish from last week’s Packers collapse was how impressive the Colts were at coming back from a 21-3 halftime deficit. What impressed me most about Andrew Luck was his ability to hang in the pocket and step into his throw when he knew he was going to get CRUSHED by Clay Matthews. I haven’t seen too many quarterbacks that have Luck’s physical skills, raw intelligence, and intangibles. It is possible that Andrew Luck will have Jay Cutler’s arm, Peyton Manning’s brain, and Tom Brady’s poise. He’s actually already rated first in ESPN’s 2012 QBR rankings, when you adjust for opponents. I’m glad the Packers don’t play in his division.
My first instinct on this game was to write that the Jets should not be favored over anybody other than the Titans, Chiefs, Browns, Bucs, Jaguars, and maybe Raiders. But, throughout Rex Ryan’s tenure, they play best when expectations are lowest. They had a chance to steal Monday Night’s game against the Texans, who up to this point have been the best team in the league.
Luck played brilliantly last week, but he also made some gambles that didn’t end up costing him. With or without Darrelle Revis, that’s not something you can get away with as easily against a Rex Ryan defense. Plus, everybody in the world is going to be picking the Colts, which is never the side you want to be on. Also, we’re due for a Tebow Magic victory. Jets cover.
Asif: Two teams headed in very different directions. The AFC is not at all deep after the top 3 teams (Pats, Ravens, Texans) and the Colts might be able to shock everyone and sneak into the playoffs — I’m not saying its probable, just don’t be surprised if it happens. If Indy does make the playoffs, their 2011 stink bomb of a season should be cast as the single most blatant tank job of all time.
The Jets, meanwhile, might not win another game this season. They don’t have a single above-average (or average for that matter) skill position player on offense (if you say Mark Sanchez you’re dead to me). Watching them play is kinda gross. Colts cover.
Kansas City @ Tampa Bay (-4)
Ryan: Brady Quinn on the road versus a team that had two weeks to prepare. This almost feels like stealing. Tampa covers.
Asif: I’m in first place in my fantasy league. My top scorer? The Bears defense (seriously its been insane). So with Chicago on a bye this week, I was a little bit distraught. That was, until I saw this game and found Tampa’s defense sitting pretty on the free agent pile. I expect big things. Tampa covers.
Oakland @ Atlanta (-9)
Ryan: Atlanta has already played the rest of the AFC West, gone 3-0, and won by an average of more than 15 points per game. The Raiders are giving up more than 31 points per game while the Falcons are scoring almost 30. If for some reason Oakland keeps it close or gets a backdoor cover, I can live with that much more than seeing Julio Jones score twice in the first six minutes, making me agonize that I laid my reputation ON THE LINE for this dreadful Oakland team. Atlanta covers.
Asif: I don’t need a bunch of fancy numbers and book-learning to know that this is going to be a massacre. Falcons cover.
Dallas @ Baltimore (-3.5)
Ryan: Since beating the Giants in Week 1, the Cowboys have done absolutely nothing to suggest that they can beat a really good team on the road. They’ve gotten blown out by the Seahawks and Bears while their win against Tampa Bay was unimpressive. At some point, we’re all going to realize that Dallas just isn’t that good.
The Ravens, meanwhile, are 4-1. Their only loss came by one point Week 2 in Philadelphia. It was a little bit weird that they couldn’t beat Kansas City more handily last week as they struggled to stop the run and couldn’t generate any offense. Last week was sort of a trap game for them, but they came out with the win, if not the cover. I think they’ll be better this week. Baltimore covers.
Asif: Since their Week 1 demolition of the Bengals, the Ravens haven’t looked super impressive in any of their games. They’re still very much a grind it out team. That said, Dallas has been a picture of mediocrity. Ravens cover.
Detroit @ Philadelphia (-3.5)
Ryan: The Eagles are just a complete enigma. This isn’t just the case on a week-to-week basis–you have no idea how they will play from one quarter to the next. Like the Giants, they have an astounding variance between really good and really bad.
On the other side of the equation, though, I think that the Lions are a pretty bad football team. They can pass the ball but they can’t run or play defense and they have bad special teams. As long as Michael Vick can somewhat avoid Detroit’s pass rush, Philadelphia’s receivers should be open in the secondary.
While the Eagles are enigmatic, I think they trend better than people realize. Philadelphia covers.
Asif: The Eagles somehow keep winning games that they should lose. This is not a game that they should lose. So maybe they’ll lose? Probably not. Eagles cover.
St. Louis @ Miami (-3.5)
Ryan: Both of these teams are a lot better than everybody thought they’d be coming into the season. With each passing week, Joe Philbin is looking like a great hire for the Dolphins as they continue their improvement while the Packers offense shows signs of immense regression. With a couple minor breaks, Miami could be 4-1.
Jeff Fisher has turned around the Rams MUCH quicker than I thought he would. I misjudged his last couple seasons in Tennessee as incompetence rather than a need for a change of scenery. You can see Fisher’s impact up and down the defense, which gets to the quarterback with regularity and is one of those squads where you always see three guys forcefully finishing tackles. However, the Rams are 3-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. In this matchup, I would take the home team either way, so Dolphins cover.
Asif: Semi-intriguing derp bowl? Neither of these teams is really that good, but they both scrappy. I’d say the Rams probably have a slightly higher talent level and WAY better coaching (Joe Philbin is TERRIBLE). St. Louis covers.
New England (-3.5) @ Seattle
Ryan: Greg Bedard, one of the best beat writers in the league, describes the brilliant simplicity of the Patriots no-huddle attack:
The Patriots operate their no-huddle attack most often using one word as the play call. More accurately, they use six one-word play calls a game. That word tells all 11 players on offense everything they need to know.
Formation. Blocking scheme. Direction on run plays. Routes for receiver on passing plays. Shifts in formations. Snap count. Possible alerts and play alterations.
I really think this line should be a couple points higher, and yes, I’m still holding Pete Carroll’s excessive celebration from the Seattle Screw Job against him. Patriots cover.
Asif: It’s kind of amazing how the Patriots seem to reinvent themselves every year. In the span of a decade they’ve gone from ball control and grind it out defense, to a huge stretch the field offense, to death by Wes Welker, to two tight end sets, to a no-huddle with a newly explosive running game. If you haven’t been paying attention, Stevan Ridley is a top 5 or 6 NFL running back (I’d take Foster, McCoy, Rice, Peterson, and maybe Richardson over him right now and that’s it). He’s definitely the best backfield threat the Pats have had since Corey Dillon’s first couple seasons in Foxboro, he might be the best back they’ve had since Curtis Martin (and no I’m not forgetting Antowain Smith).
Seattle on the other hand is just negligently throwing away winnable games by starting Russell Wilson over Matt Flynn (who by every indication has the floor of an average starter). I’m not saying that Wilson can’t be good, he just isn’t that good now, and at some point you have to wonder if its worth throwing away a potential playoff spot by having $10 million in guaranteed money hold a clipboard so that you can play a shorter version of Mark Sanchez (he’s not that bad, but I’m making a point). Then again, this is a team that basically made Pete Carroll coach and GM for life. Patriots cover.
Buffalo @ Arizona (-4.5)
Ryan: This game is a mini litmus test for both of these teams.
The Bills’ two wins came against the Browns and Chiefs, which might be the two worst teams in the league. In their other three games, Buffalo has lost by 20, 24, and 42 to the Jets, Patriots, and 49ers.
Arizona got a little bit overrated before last week’s Rams loss but now expectations have perhaps adjusted too far in the other direction. This is still one of the best defenses in the league. Cardinals cover.
Asif:I predict that this game will be no fun to watch. Arizona covers.
Minnesota @ Washington (-2)
Ryan: Will Robert Griffin III be a little gunshy this week as he comes back from his concussion? Will the Redskins coaching staff call plays more conservatively instead of consistently setting up RG3 – whose frame is significantly smaller than Cam Newton’s – for punishment? Perhaps, but even if RG3 lets/is let loose this week, I believe that the Vikings are a much better team.
Minnesota still isn’t getting the respect it deserves in these spreads. Christian Ponder’s learning curve has been steeper than almost anybody projected. Percy Harvin is the most underrated playmaker in the league – he has 38 catches for 407 yards, 13 rushes for 62 yards, and four total touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing, and two on returns). Vikings cover.
Asif: RGIII is a smart guy so he’s gotta know that his body can’t continue to take this kind of beating and he’s gotta cool it a bit on the scrambles. At the same time, the Shanahans clearly either don’t notice or don’t care, because not only are they starting their franchise a week after he got so concussed he couldn’t remember where he was, they’re the ones calling all the naked bootlegs and designed runs. Griffin should have sat this week no question, and the fact that he’s playing puts to lie the whole ‘safety’ thing the NFL keeps harping on. If these kinds of decisions deprive us of a long career for RGIII, I’m going to be pissed (and I HATE the Redskins).
I’m kind of shocked that Christian Ponder has become a top-12 NFL QB (take a look at Football Outsiders’ DYAR rankings, your mind will be blown) because last year I was sure that he was Blaine Gabbert with less hair. I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong, though. The Vikings need to start getting some more respect (they might be better than the Packers, more on that in a minute). Minnesota covers.
NY Giants @ San Francisco (-6)
Ryan: As maddeningly inconsistent as they’ve been throughout the Tom Coughlin era, the Giants have a distinct habit of getting up for games like this. On the road against an elite team, a chip on their shoulder because everybody has already sort of forgotten they are the defending champions (Vegas has them at 15:1 to repeat), isn’t this always sort of the game where the Giants crush their opponents before losing as 10-point home favorites the next week?
This game and Packers-Texans are the two most compelling of the week and I’m excited to see what happens. Giants cover.
Asif: Why isn’t Eli Manning getting more MVP buzz? He’s playing behind a makeshift line (although they might be better off without David Diehl), without his best wideout, an inconsistent running game, and a defense that seems to have lost its teeth and he’s still playing like a champ. He currently leads all QBs in DYAR and DVOA (good explanation of the stats if you click through). Is there any QB you’d trust more with the game on the line? Brady, Brees, and Rodgers have had a few high profile flops recently, Matt Ryan has yet to get that signature victory, but Eli always seems to come through. I realize there’s a lot of bias here, but there is definitely an argument to be made that he’s the best QB in the NFL right now.
The 49ers’ defense is scary, and their runing game is good, but Alex Smith has started to look suspiciously Alex Smith-y lateley. Giants cover.
Green Bay @ Houston (-3.5)
Ryan: These are the types of games where the Packers come out strong and hit their opponents in the mouth. In a weird way, the Texans have been the best team in the league thus far and they are concurrently overrated. The passing game is a liability.
The biggest issue in this game is the Packers’ health. Greg Jennings, BJ Raji, Jermichael Finley, and DJ Williams (who is about to pass Finley on the depth chart at TE) are all questionable. Raji is the most important question mark in this group; they need him or else Arian Foster is going to run roughshod over this Packers D.
Wish I could make this pick with knowledge of who plays and who doesn’t, but my gut says that the Packers cover.
Asif: Are we getting to the point where we might argue that the Packers just aren’t that good? They played a pretty soft schedule last year, going against very few top defenses and unlike, say the Patriots, they haven’t shown anything new this season. The defense is still pretty inconsistent (the secondary is a mess) and their receivers still have a major case of the dropsies. I think all of this might be getting to Aaron Rodgers, whose body language last week against the Colts looked awful. He’s taken the onus on himself publicly, but on the field you can tell he’s fed up. I give it three more weeks before he takes a swing at Jermichael Finley or Jordy Nelson. Still, Rodgers is so good that the Packers have a chance in every game, even when everything goes wrong, so I won’t be writing them off quite yet.
Losing Brian Cushing for the season on a BLATANT dirty block by Matt Slauson (who ironically publicly complained about Ndamukong Suh last year) might be a bigger blow than people think. The Texans’ defense is loaded -JJ Watt is the best defensive player in the league – but a guy like Cushing (the best linebacker in football if you’ve been paying attention) isn’t easily replaced.
This is a really tough one to pick, the Texans have looked like the better team, and it’s a chance for them to make a real statement and establish themselves as the NFL’s new top dog. On the other hand, there’s a lot of pride on the line for Green Bay. Coin flip, Packers cover.
Denver @ San Diego (-1)
Ryan: Like Asif, I’m getting really sick of watching Chargers games. I know that there’s technically an option not to watch NFL games when they are on but that just isn’t going to happen. Broncos cover.
Asif: How does San Diego have so many prime time games? Even before the season everyone knew they would be mediocre. I’d say there’s about a 20% chance that we see Philip Rivers take a swing at Norv Turner on the sidelines this season, but those odds are steadily increasing. Denver covers.