Major league sports and prostate cancer … a challenge


So here in the USA, Major League Baseball has been a long-time supporter of a significant initiative to spread awareness of prostate cancer.

In a media release issued yesterday, the MLB states that: “Each Father’s Day since 1997, MLB and [the Prostate Cancer Foundation] have worked together to increase awareness and early detection of prostate cancer while raising more than $38 million for prostate cancer research.” In addition, and also for many years, Ed Randall’s Fans for the Cure (formerly known as Ed Randall’s Bat for the Cure) has been working with the minor baseball league teams to spread awareness about prostate cancer.

The association between the other major sports in the USA and prostate cancer has been less strong. This is not to say that they don’t all have cancer support programs, because they do, but when one considers that males are the primary audiences (and players) in all four of the major sports — American football, ice hockey, basketball, and baseball (not to mention golf) — it would be not unreasonable to hope that the owners and players would be willing to make a greater effort to support sound awareness of the risk of prostate cancer and much more importantly to help to raise more money for research into better diagnosis and treatment.

This is not to say that there aren’t a lot of small initiatives:

  • The AUA Foundation has been running an awareness initiative for the past 2 years with the NFL Player Foundation, with Michael Haynes as the spokesperson; they have also been conducting the “Know Your Stats” initiative with the NFL itself.
  • Several NBA teams have hosted awareness initiatives associated with specific players who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer (see, for example, the Chicago Bulls initiative — again with Ed Randall’s Bat for a Cure — earlier this year, in memory of Johnny “Red” Kerr).
  • At the beginning of the current 2010-11 season the NHL and the NHL Players Association agreed to work with ZERO — The Project to End Prostate Cancer to host prostate cancer awareness events “at select games throughout the NHL season.”

Earlier this year, Dan Zenka of the Prostate Cancer Foundation and other representatives of the Prostate Cancer Roundtable met with the NFL to discuss expanding the involvement of the NFL in raising awareness and funding for prostate cancer research. On this web site we published an “open e-mail” on the subject to Commissioner Goodell and his senior staff.

So here’s the challenge. Do you know — personally — a major league sports owner or player? Have you ever asked that person what they know about prostate cancer? Have you ever suggested to them that an extra $100 million a year for the Prostate Cancer Foundation could help to further revolutionize the management of prostate cancer in America and around the world? Imagine that every ticket to every major league game in the nation every year came with a statement that one single dollar of the cost of that ticket would be donated to prostate cancer research. Would that stop people buying a ticket? Of course not. It would probably make most men (who are the purchasers of most of those tickets) feel better about their purchase. And it would easily raise $100 million in research funds for prostate cancer every single year. Think about it! Is there anything you can do to make that happen?

8 Responses

  1. I think this is the biggest problem that cancer has going against finding a cure, all these cancer charities, someone is making money, the lady with the pink ribbon campaign has a huge house in Aspen and another one in Palm Beach, yes, registered in her husband’s name, but don’t kid yourself she is making big money, why would she tell us of a easy painless cure? She’d go out of business, and all the 4 billion in research money would be lost.

  2. Dear Ron:

    I can assure you that Nancy Brinker (“the lady with the pink ribbon campaign”) would simply LOVE to be able to shut down Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It would mean she had fulfilled her promise to her sister. And as far as I am aware she receives no personal income from Komen whatsoever. There was most certainly none listed in the most recent Form 990 filed by the foundation and available on its web site.

    Would an awful lot of people doing research into breast cancer today have to find something else to do if we found a cure for breast cancer? Sure they would. The same thing happened to people who cared for horses and drove carriages when we developed the car. I can also assure you that the Boards of Directors of the two other cancer foundations I sit on would like nothing more than to be able to shut them down.

    Are there people who run cancer charities and make money doing so? Yes, there are. But you need to be careful where you point fingers.

  3. The sad state of support of behalf of the NFL can be exemplified no better than this: the former owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and founder of the AFL, Lamar Hunt, died of advanced prostate cancer. Though his family may likely provide some private support, publicly they are silent.

    We have a few angles we are taking here locally, if we make progress I’ll let you all know.

  4. Why not the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? Bill’s mom died of breast cancer. Will Bill have prostate cancer?

    Why not the Google foundation? One of them tests for genes leading to Parkinson’s. He has already funded a clinical trial on that disease. These folks can give it to the government or a charity. What is required is a business plan that shows how the funds will be used, etc. Bill and Gates Foundation funding starts at $150 million

    Does anyone have a plan that is “shovel ready”?

  5. Despite the NFL initiative mentioned above, most of us recall the NFL players wearing pink sweatbands and gloves the past few seasons providing incredible national exposure to fight breast cancer but nothing for prostate cancer.

    How come NFL does not have a national week when a light blue armband is featured — particularly since this is exclusively a male disease, widespread, and with a way higher than average incidence in the African-American community; shouldn’t charity begin at home?

    I have worked for two NBA owners in the past, but sadly both have long since sold their franchises. I will put my thinking cap on to see how we can reach out — but it would seem like a no-brainer for our “Round Table” to get a meeting with the NFL — have we tried as a body (the round table), Mike? I am happy to assist in any way required, if you can get a green light from the members.

    rd

  6. Dear Rick:

    There was a meeting with the NFL by members of the Round Table just a few months ago (see above). It was coordinated by Dan Zenka from the Prostate Cancer Foundation. They were interested and polite and said that the request would be considered, but the pretty clear message was that these decisions tended to rest in the hands of the team owners, not the NFL itself. We need to be able to convince a couple of team owners to get behind this idea.

  7. Tx Mike … How did breast cancer fund such a high profile? Can we find out if an owner was involved or if it was a league decision?

    In response to Bob — I believe the Gates Foundation does not cite domestic cancers as part of its mission statement. That does not mean it will not fund if there is a personal reason — but we would have to have an entry; a straight grant request is unlikely to be considered.

    Don’t know much about the Google Foundation.

    rd

  8. Rick: NFL owners have wives. NFL players have wives. Wise husbands listen to their wives. Women know how to work together when they want something. The NFL — to a large extent — does what the owners say they want to do. Now how do you think that works? :O)

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