ACS defends 'great partner' NFL

Amid criticism by some that the NFL's "A Crucial Catch" program isn't doing enough for breast cancer, the American Cancer Society, the organization it benefits, is speaking out.

"From our perspective, the NFL is a great partner," said American Cancer Society spokeswoman Tara Peters. "They've given millions of dollars to us in the fight against breast cancer."

From 2009 to 2012, Peters said, the NFL donated $4.5 million to the ACS, much of it coming from royalties from NFL pink merchandise sold in October each season. Royalties from the league's ongoing efforts this month have not been tallied.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN.com that the league takes a 25 percent royalty from all pink gear and donates 90 percent of that royalty directly to the ACS. The other 10 percent is used to produce and promote the campaign, which includes $5 million in awareness advertising this year.

For example, on a pink item sold for $100, the league would receive $12.50 (25 percent on the wholesale price of $50), with $11.25 of that going to the ACS.

Criticism was fueled by a Business Insider story earlier this month that said "a shockingly small amount of the fans' money is actually going towards cancer research." The article's author interpreted that, because only 11 percent of each NFL pink item went to the ACS and because the ACS has said 71 percent of the money it receives goes toward research and cancer programs, only 8 percent of the price paid for pink items went toward the cause.

Although the league has said it doesn't profit, and the manufacturers and retailers haven't donated their share, the criticism -- voiced mostly on social media outlets -- was lobbed at the NFL.

NFL officials maintain the donation to the ACS represents all net proceeds. The league also donates 100 percent of net proceeds on all game-used pink gear it auctions off on NFL.com throughout the month of October.

"Through this campaign, we saw the power of pink on the field," McCarthy said. "We actually only made merchandise because fans were asking for it and we responded. But we always said we weren't going to make money off of it."

For the past two years, Peters said, the NFL's donations have gone directly to the ACS's Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program. Peters said that from July 2012 to July 2013, the NFL money went to educate more than 40,000 women on the benefits and importance of early breast cancer screening with almost 10,000 screenings performed.

Said Peters: "The NFL is taking the brunt of the criticism, but from its take, they couldn't give us more than what they are giving."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's mother died from breast cancer in 1984 at the age of 53.