Sports

Government Officials Shut Down The Baltimore Ravens’ Creepy ‘DNA Day’ Promotion 

by Tod Perry

September 21, 2017

The NFL is known for charging an arm and a leg for game tickets, and now the Baltimore Ravens seem to be coming after their fans’ DNA history as well. Last Sunday, at the Ravens’ home opener versus the Cleveland Browns, there was supposed to be a mass collection of 55,000 cheek swabs at M&T Bank Stadium, but it was thwarted by the Maryland Department of Health. 

Genetic testing company Orig3n had originally planned on giving away testing kits to fans for a promotional event known as “DNA Day.” “Purple and black are in your genes,” ads for the promotion read. “Now find out what else is.” Fans were to be been given cheek swabs upon entering the stadium that were to be placed in a receptacle. After undergoing lab tests, fans would be notified of their results via email. 

According to Orig3n the tests would provide valuable insights into the fans’ genetic traits that determine their athletic potential, including language ability, vitamin D absorption, muscle force, and sugar-induced aging. But just because they’re fans of a sport doesn’t automatically mean they also want to play sports — or that they’re interested in a cheek swab before a game. 

The promotion also raised questions about consumer privacy. Test-takers at the stadium — many of whom might have just endured hours of beer-swilling in the parking lot — may not be aware that Orig3n would hold the right to sell their genetic information to a third party as long as any identifying information was removed. “I’m worried that people don’t fully understand that the ways these companies operate is like Google, which offers you a free search engine, but the way it makes its money is selling your data to advertisers,” Kayte Spector-Bagdady, chief of the research ethics division at the University of Michigan Medical School, told BuzzFeed News.

The promotion was finally shut down by Maryland’s Department of Health after a request from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. They questioned whether Orig3n’s lab requires a permit saying it’s in compliance with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988, a set of standards for laboratory testing of humans.

But don’t worry, Ravens fans, you may get your DNA Day yet. According to Orig3n spokesperson Kevin Byrne, his company is “confident it can receive the proper approvals” and they plan to still have a fan giveaway later this season. 

Share image by David Robert Crews/Flickr.

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