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The Backlash Against The Race for the Cure Running Events

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The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation became immersed in controversy this week after making a decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. The organization reversed that decision today but there are lingering questions of how the action will affect the foundation's wildly popular Race for the Cure running events.

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is an annual series of walks, jogs and runs that raises money for breast cancer research and prevention. In 2010, more than 1.6 million people participated in approximately 130 race events that made up the fundraising series. The Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure that year drew 71,800 participants alone.

While the reversal of the decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood may resolve the immediate controversy surrounding the foundation, the effect on the race series going forward is not at all clear. The dispute has tarnished the foundation's reputation and, by extension, its flagship running series.

Numerous commenters on the foundation's Facebook page said they would canceling their donations and demanding refunds for Race for the Cure events they had registered for. The same claims were very common on twitter throughout the day.


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Noted running expert Hal Higdon poised the question directly this morning on his twitter account: "Susan G. Komen cut funds to Planned Parenthood. Will the resulting controversy hurt the popular runs & walks?" And the handful of twitter responses said they believed it would.

In a guest post on Boston.com, Danielle Riendeau, the ACLU's Massachusetts Online Communications Coordinator, suggested the runs could become a focal point for people displeased with the actions of the foundation.

You can bet that the pink-laced running shoes of thousands of former Komen supporters will be walking their charity funds elsewhere--to organizations that believe decisions on women’s health are too important to be swayed by politics.

That forecast seems all the more likely with, as you probably expected, the emergence of a Facebook group and a Craiglist page urging a boycott of Komen's activities including participation in the race events.

Other responses have been more direct. In Cleveland one member of the city council is demanding the group's permit for this year's Race for the Cure be revoked. An online petition was started calling for a boycott of the Columbus, Ohio, race and previous participants in North Carolina have been urged to mail their race t-shirts back to the foundation. Moreover, there are now concerns the events will draw protests.

According to the Komen foundation, about three-quarters of the net proceeds from these events are used locally to pay for community outreach programs run by the regional Komen affiliate. The remaining quarter is sent to the central organization headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

UPDATE 6:46 p.m: Here are a few items about the effect of the controversy in regards to the Komen races that have shown up in the past few hours.

  • Officials with Komen's San Diego affiliate say they have lost a $50,000 corporate sponsor for their Race for the Cure 5K in November.
  • The Associated Press asked its twitter followers if they'll participate in Komen events in the future. The direct replies to the question were all negative.
  • The Columbus, Ohio affiliate says it doesn't expect an organized boycott of it's planned May event.
  • A team has been formed to support Planned Parenthood at the 2012 Komen Twin Tiers Race for the Cure in New York next May.
  • The Alaska Run For Women reported receiving numerous inquiries asking if they were associated with Komen. They posted a clarifying statement on their Facebook page saying they are not.
  • Breast cancer survivor Mila N. Becker posted an essay on Huffington Post explaining the reasons why she will continue to participate in the Komen events.