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Mayor Bans Firefighters From Wearing Pink for Cancer Awareness, Backpedals After Community Outrage

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"troubling and somewhat sad"

While athletes, students, businesses and others have been wearing varying shades of pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, a group of firefighters in Connecticut hoping to do the same were told no by the city's mayor. Locals were upset over the controversial ban and reportedly were going to launch a protest Thursday, but the decision has been reversed.

CBS Local out of New York reports Bristol Mayor Art Ward told firefighters, who are unionized, that they couldn't wear pink shirts because it could cause "difficulties" with other charities previously supported. The pink T-shirts are endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters, which is even hosting a contest for departments sporting the shirt nationwide as part of its "Passionately Pink for the Cure" campaign.

Ward for weeks has been defending his decision with some support, but others at a recent city council meeting felt his opposition to the shirts being worn once a week only served to politicize the issue. The Bristol Press has more from the Tuesday meeting:

The issue raged all weekend, garnering media coverage across the region, after resident Regina von Gootkin assailed the mayor in an open letter late Friday that was published on a Bristol Press blog. She castigated the mayor for using his power “arbitrarily and inequitably” to clamp down on a worthy public awareness effort by firefighters.

“This is less about breast cancer and more about my relationship with the fire union,” Ward responded, pointing out the union has voted to censure him and has sued the city on other issues.

[Fire union President Sean] Lennon said he found it “troubling and somewhat sad” that the mayor allowed his personal problems with the fire union to take precedence over the need to save lives by raising awareness about breast cancer.

On Thursday NBC New York reported that Ward had reversed his decision, citing his mother's own battle with the disease for the change of heart. He also noted that the firehouse would be open on Oct. 28 to the public interested in visiting to purchase a $20 shirt, proceeds for which would support Susan G. Komen Foundation.

CBS Local reported one firefighter, whose aunt survived breast cancer twice, as saying the controversy surrounding the mayor's stance up to this point had served to boost T-shirt sales. The Bristol firefighters have sold 500 shirts so far, according to NBC.

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