Soccer fans may have noticed that San Jose Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski donned a bright pink wristband while he scored an unheard of three goals during the team’s Oct. 20 game. Instead of shying away from wearing pink clothing, Wondolowski and many of the team’s players and coaches sported pink attire at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara a week ago. Local athletes have embraced wearing the traditionally nonmasculine color in support of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The San Jose Earthquakes are just one of many Bay Area teams that are currently participating in cancer awareness campaigns.
“I’ve had a couple of friends whose mothers have been diagnosed,” Wondolowski says. “I think it’s a great cause.”
No men’s professional sports team has pink as one of its main team colors. As such, when a player commits to wearing pink garments on and off the field, it provides a powerful message. Athletes are taking advantage of their popularity this month to make a personal connection with fans who are cancer patients.
The National Football League, for one, has dedicated October to Breast Cancer Awareness. Many pigskin followers may have noticed an assortment of pink gloves and arm sleeves on players throughout the nation.
When the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 17, the team had breast cancer survivors participate in an awareness-raising coin toss that used a pink coin. Furthermore, the team’s captains wore a pink patch on their jerseys in that match, and the footballs were also emblazoned with the breast cancer logo.
The effort to raise cancer awareness has also spread to the college ranks. The Spartan women’s soccer team has been wearing pink warm-up jerseys this entire month to show their support. SJSU soccer players Hallsie Pacheco and Kelsy Holm have relatives with breast cancer. They say that wearing pink warm-up jerseys has brought the team closer together and helped spread awareness at their games.
Here, the San Jose Sharks have made a point to take breast cancer awareness one step further. Besides wearing a “Hockey Fights Cancer” decal on their helmets for the entire month of October, the Sharks dedicated their Oct. 19 match to be “Hockey Fights Cancer Night.”
“We invited 20 patients an their families from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to the game in the penthouse suite,” says Jeff Cafuir, fan-development manager for the Sharks. “Four of them got to go on Zamboni rides, and after the game, we took the patients down for a locker room tour.”
Some proceeds raised at the Shark Tank that night went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Cafuir says the patients also got a chance to participate in a meet-and-greet with about 10 of the Sharks players.
Whether it’s a golfer getting caught having multiple affairs or a football player participating in a dog-fighting rink, many off-the-field stories concerning professional athletes lately have shown them in a negative light.
But by participating in charity campaigns like Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, local sports figures are proving that “Real Men Wear Pink.”