Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams lost his mom—and four of his aunts—to the disease.
Credit: Getty Images

Every October, the NFL asks players to don a very non-uniform color—pink—for Breast Cancer Awareness month. For Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, you don’t have to ask him twice.

His mother, Sandra Kay Hill, passed away from breast cancer in May 2014, and he’s glad to have the opportunity to honor not only his mother but also four of his aunts, who sadly died of breast cancer as well. This year, he even asked his bosses at the NFL if he could continue to wear pink shoes or wristbands throughout the year.

But the NFL's vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said no, citing uniform rules.

When asked what it felt like to get that response, he told ESPN’s Lisa Salters: "The same way it made you feel after you heard it—like, man. He told me no."

But shortly after, he announced that he will pay for 53 mammograms at a hospital in Pittsburgh, and in Charlotte, North Carolina; one mammogram for every year of his mom’s life. Insurance covers mammograms, but people without insurance must pay out of pocket, making it quite an expense for many.

And while the NFL covers equipment and merchandise in a hot, magenta pink every October (and only for October), purportedly to raise money for breast cancer research, they’ve come under fire recently about how much of that money actually goes towards cancer research—and how much goes straight back to the NFL.

Just think what could be accomplished if every NFL player donated a few mammograms this month instead of just wearing pink?

Still Williams' commitment to that awareness color is heart-warming. To that end, he actually already has a workaround for wearing pink every month, regardless of the NFL rules: he can dye his hair. "It's part of the uniform from the standpoint of being tackled, but it's not specific on what color it has to be or if it has to match the uniform," he told ESPN's Stalter.


In the above NFL video, he summed it up with this: "Pink is not a color, it's a culture for me. I'll wear the color pink on the field for the rest of my career."

Update (October 16, 2015): After numerous outlets reported on Williams' decision to pay for mammograms, he posted a clarification on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Turns out, "there's much more to it," he says. He will also fund follow-up care for the women, and he is extending the initiative, which began in 2014, to a hospital in Memphis, as well as those in Pittsburgh and Charlotte, North Carolina.