On Sunday, the Washington Redskins hosted their annual Breast Cancer Awareness game at FedExField against the Chicago Bears.
The Redskins were one of the last teams in the National Football League to host a home game in the month of October, but were the first to bring awareness to the cause back in 1999.
Tanya Snyder, wife of owner Daniel M. Snyder, used Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October of 1999 to oscillate knowledge to the Redskins fan base in hopes that it would spread across the league.
Throughout the month, Redskins players are wearing pink colored accessories to include gloves, cleats, compression sleeves and decals.
The focus goes well beyond the gridiron, though.
Mrs. Snyder, a breast cancer survivor herself, made a concerted effort to use the attention the NFL receives to help both those who are battling breast cancer and alert others to get checked on a regular basis.
“In 1999 Dan Snyder bought the Washington Redskins [and that] was the beginning,” Mrs. Snyder said. “We became involved with the Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) sorority. The Northern Chapter came and made a proposal to hand out pink ribbons, hence THINK-PINK! began within the league.”
On Sunday, members of local ZTA chapters and CareFirst passed out over 51,000 pamphlets with THINK-PINK ribbons and breast health tips such as scheduling mammograms.
In 1999, the Redskins passed out 8,000 ribbons. On Sunday, they passed out their 5 millionth in front of a sellout crowd that wore the ribbons proudly over their Redskins gear.
“You take it one ribbon at a time, one ribbon at a time, one game at a time year after year and we’ve gotten there,” Mrs. Snyder said.
Before the game started on a sunny afternoon in Landover, Mrs. Snyder was joined by her husband, Dan Snyder; Sherry Tilley, Vice President of Philanthropy for the Zeta Tau Alpha Foundation, and ZTA members in passing out ribbons to fans both entering the stadium and already inside watching warmups.
Standing out amongst the burgundy and gold scattered throughout, Tilley pointed to the amount of pink as symbolic of the growing support.
“It is everywhere and it’s because it’s an amazing cause and I think our women want to make a difference,” Tilley said. “They want to touch lives and what a great place to have started it here with the Redskins.
“It has grown to all of the NFL teams and lots of collegiate events and we’re really proud and grateful to the Redskins for starting it.”
Before the game’s first kick, members of ZTA and the 20 All-Star Survivors who attended the Redskins’ sixth annual All-Star Celebration on Tuesday were on the field to help led the players out of the tunnel.
The survivors joined the First Ladies of Football to form a tunnel to for the players’ official arrival to the game while ZTA members formed a human pink ribbon at the 50-yard line. They remained in place during the playing of the National Anthem.
Mrs. Synder joined them on the field both reflecting on the progress that’s been made and admitting that more lives will be touched in the years to come thanks to the NFL’s
“I wish there were more hours in the day to make a bigger difference,” Mrs. Snyder said. “But I do everything that I possibly can to help with the women within the NFL and certainly make a difference.
“I’m proud of all of the ZTAs and everybody; it’s been a grassroots effort to make this happen.”