The Tampa Bay Cannons have a lot of heart. If you’re a fan of the team and follow them on social media, you’ve probably seen photos of them out marching for unity and equality, posting fitness tips to motivate us all to stay healthy while social distancing, and sharing pics with their favorite cereals as part of their Feeding Tampa Bay fundraiser. Using their platform to raise awareness and support causes that are important to them is a huge part of what makes the Tampa Bay Cannons who they are.
One of the causes that is so important to the organization is raising awareness about breast cancer, particularly in often overlooked segments of the population, namely men and people of color. Through their passion for philanthropy and partnership with the American Cancer Society, the Cannons’ Real Men Wear Pink campaign began. Last year, for their Mother’s Day game, the team wore pink wristbands onfield, gave flowers to moms, sold pink gear, and donated full proceeds to ACS. This year, the plan was to take things even further — an ACS education booth at the game, a whole field full of players in pink jerseys, news coverage, 50/50 raffles, auctions, and more. The whole team was looking forward to ramping up their efforts to help raise even more awareness and working to raise their goal amount of $5000 to donate to ACS.
2020 hasn’t gone the way any of us expected. Vacation plans have been scratched out. Events have been canceled. Sports seasons have been postponed. While many of the disruptions that COVID-19 has had on daily life are pretty obvious, there’s also a ripple effect, and unfortunately, the Cannons’ fundraising efforts for the year have also been thwarted. But despite the COVID setbacks, they’re determined to do everything they can to help raise awareness, raise funds, and fight the stigma surrounding men and breast cancer. Because men do get breast cancer. About 1 in every 833 men, in fact.
And that’s why this year, for Father’s Day, we’re launching the Tampa Bay Cannons Real Men Wear Pink jersey. To raise awareness, start a conversation, and raise critical funds to donate to ACS. With the rest of their grand plans on hold, jersey sales and direct donations are the primary ways you can help support the Cannons RMWP campaign. If you’re unable to donate, then sharing on social or simply having a conversation with a dad in your life this weekend are also amazing ways to help.
We recently spoke with Peter Masone, General Manager of the Tampa Bay Cannons, about the Real Men Wear Pink fundraiser and why this is such an important cause to the team. Read on below to learn more about their partnership with ACS and why it’s crucial for men to get involved in the fight against breast cancer.
What is the Real Men Wear Pink fundraiser about? Why did the Tampa Bay Cannons decide to partner with the American Cancer Society for a pink jersey?
Peter Masone: In general, we have all been touched one way or another by cancer. Our involvement started simply with me looking to layer an existing charity interest with our team initiative to promote women in sports during a half-time women's scrimmage.
However, if you look deeper into breast cancer statistics, approximately 2,600 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. Plus, about 520 men will die from breast cancer per year. Due to the lack of awareness and, jeesh who thinks of men when you say “breast cancer”!?, the mortality rate for men is much higher.
White women are 100x more likely to be diagnosed than men and black women 70x more likely than black men. As you can see, awareness on all fronts is needed and having a men’s team taking up the cause helps create a sense of comfort to talk about potential issues more freely.
How long have the Cannons been partnering with ACS? How did this partnership start and how has it grown? How has COVID-19 impacted your fundraising efforts?
PM: The partnership officially started last season, in 2019 after the move to Tampa Bay. Last year, we held a Mother's Day Pink event (and had another one on the schedule for this season). We gave flowers to all the moms who came out to the game. We also had our two Florida club partners — Fiasco and Tabby Rosa — play an 18-minute long half-time showcase. Basically, the whole weekend was all about women. Women in sport, moms, and health by the way of breast cancer awareness and fundraising. Everyone on the team wore pink wristbands to represent our dedication to fighting breast cancer. We sold pink merch and 100% of the profits from any pink merch sold were donated to ACS.
We also engaged in several remote fundraising events under the RMWP banner, as well as participated in the Making Strides walk in October. I believe, overall we were able to raise a modest $2500 through our various fundraisers.
This season, we planned to build on that foundation. On Mother's Day, ACS planned to have a large presence on-site for RMWP with a booth to help with awareness. Each game leading up to and after Mother’s Day, the RMWP Pinellas team would hold a 50/50 raffle. The intent was promoting the Mother's Day event and gaining maximum exposure to raise donations by just reminding people constantly PINK! Along with that, the Cannons were planning to wear their official pink jerseys that day. Naturally, we expected that to create some attention. We had the local news affiliate who is heavily active with ACS and Making Strides to shine a light on it.
All this effort would culminate in October again at Making Strides where the team would show up to meet and greet, wear the pink jerseys, and be there for whatever the ACS wants to use for promotion. The grand plan is to auction the game-worn pink jerseys for more donations.
Minus some setbacks from COVID-19 delaying the start of the season, this is all still building and developing. Throughout the year, we expect to continue to build in partnership with ACS and the RMWP.
What are your goals for this fundraiser?
PM: Honestly re-evaluating this due to the COVID delays. We were originally shooting for a modest $5000 total donations, but potentially moving to a more realistic goal due to the fundraising delays. Perhaps $2500 would make more sense with all the unknowns.
(Editor’s note: I believe they can do it! Let’s all help them get to $5000!)
How can your fans get involved and support this cause?
PM: By purchasing pink Cannons gear! A portion of the proceeds will be donated directly to the ACS. Share our RMWP promotions to spread awareness and, if possible, donate!
Shop the Tampa Bay Cannons Real Men Wear Pink jersey. A portion of all sales will be donated to the American Cancer Society.