The NFL's Expanded Crucial Catch Initiative
Industry News, Philanthropy, Professional Athletes, Sports Leagues

The NFL’s Expanded Crucial Catch Initiative

It’s October, and those accustomed to the NFL’s continued support Breast Cancer Awareness Month have seen things look a little different since last season.

The NFL is still deeply engaged in their “Crucial Catch” partnership with the American Cancer Society. In the month of October, each team is assigned a home game that is their “Crucial Catch” game. In 2017, the NFL expanded their reach to support all cancers and detection, not just breast cancer. The goal posts are decorated with multi-colored wraps, a multi-colored stencil is chalked onto the end zones and game balls feature the new “Crucial Catch” logo.

On the sidelines, you can see players and coaches sporting multicolored apparel and equipment like helmet decals, captains’ patches, wristbands, cleats, gloves, sideline caps, towels and shoelaces. Fans can buy merchandise online and proceeds from the purchase is donated to the “Crucial Catch” initiative and goes to the American Cancer Society.

Now that the NFL has expanded their efforts to support all cancers, players are able to express what cancer means to them personally. During their designated “Crucial Catch” game, players can wear cleats, shoelaces, wristbands of any color representing the type of cancer awareness they support or have been impacted by during the game. Teams can also change up their support – they have the option of supporting early detection and risk-reduction efforts for one or multiple cancers in-stadium and in their communities.

Impact of “Crucial Catch”

Since launching “Crucial Catch” in 2009, the NFL has raised more than $18.5 million for the American Cancer Society. Money has gone to grants for health centers and reached more than 632,000 men and women around the country through education, instructions and screening reminders. The NFL has contributed to over 191,700 breast cancer screenings alone.

Since the expansion of focus in 2017, the NFL has contributed to 18,200 colorectal and cervical cancer screenings, 1600 HPV vaccinations and 129 cancer diagnoses.

Examples of “Crucial Catch” programming

NFL teams and athletes also get involved with the cause- sharing their cancer stories and how cancer has affected their lives. Teams have been creative about how to show solidarity with the campaign. Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera partnered with USA Football to send a note to youth and high school coaches nationally to offer ideas for how schools can join the fight against cancer.

The Baltimore Ravens had signs given out at their only October game against the New Orleans Saints that said “Today, I Honor” and fans could fill in the blank with their personal cancer story. During the two minute warning of the first half, the stadium watched Ravens players share who they honored and the team asked fans to hold up their signs and stand if they’d been affected by cancer. The majority of the stadium stood – showing how widespread the effects of cancer reach.

The “Crucial Catch” website features interviews from NFL athletes like Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Eli Harold and more. Fans can also take the lead from guys like Drew Brees and Travis Kelce and sign up for The Defender, a tool that provides personalized tips on how to reduce their risk of cancer.

Impact from sports outside the NFL

While this has been a mainstay campaign in the NFL for years, October is also that wonderful time when the majority of pro sports are in season. Here’s what other leagues, teams and athletes outside of the NFL are doing to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


The MLB honors Breast Cancer Awareness on Mother’s Day. They partner with Louisville Slugger on “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer”, a program that sells the custom pink bats created for players to use that day, along with custom pink baseballs, to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. For every bat and ball sold, $10 and $1 respectively go to MLB Charities, and 50% of that money goes to the Komen Foundation. The same agreement goes for the pink New Era caps worn during Mother’s Day games.


On October 19th, Utah Jazz Guard Alec Burks debuted pink Adidas Dame 4 sneakers to honor his fiance’s cousin for Breast Cancer Awareness month. He’s since worn them against Golden State at the Jazz’s home opener. This comes after the NBA loosened their rules on color restrictions on sneakers. It’s great to see that rule change lead to some awareness for good causes.

On September 29th, the Miami Heat hosted their 5th Annual Red White and Pink game. This open scrimmage costed fans $1 to attend, with proceeds benefiting Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida.


Since the WNBA season is over by the time October rolls around, they hold their Breast Cancer Awareness initiatives in August. The league partnered with Bright Pink and teams donned pink uniforms and warm up shirts from August 1-12th. The initiative helps with the prevention and early detection of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in young women. Pink apparel was also available for sale with proceeds going to Breast Health Awareness partners.

The Connecticut Sun also honored ESPN commentator Holly Rowe with the Margo Dydek Award, the 2018 Woman of Inspiration. Rowe has been in treatment for Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma and is an advocate for cancer research and prevention. The Connecticut Sun Foundation made a $1,000 donation to the AIM at Melanoma Foundation.


On October 2nd, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the Las Vegas Golden Knights joined patients from Comprehensive Cancer Centers in shaving each other’s heads in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. His wife’s family has been majorly affected by the disease. The event raised over $20,000 for the American Cancer Society.

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