'Jeopardy!' GOAT Tournament: Special Meaning Behind the Purple Ribbons Worn by the 3 Contestants Explained

Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time Tournament contestants Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter wore purple ribbons during filming in honor of host Alex Trebek, who announced last year he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The Jeopardy! stars also wore the ribbons during an appearance on Good Morning America to promote the tournament last week. The best-of-seven tournament kicked off on Jan. 7 and continues this week.

Jeopardy! contestants also wore purple ribbons during the Tournament of Champions in November to pay tribute to Larry Martin, the 2018 Teachers Tournament champion who died from pancreatic cancer. The show made a donation to the Fred Rogers Center.

Purple is the color for pancreatic cancer due to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network founder Pamela Acosta Marquardt. It was her mother Rose Schneider's favorite color. Marquardt founded the organization a short time after Schneider's death.

"Not long after, I went on to found the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network with the goal of it becoming a beacon of hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer – a place where people could use their anger and grief to make a world of difference," Marquardt wrote in a statement on the PCAN website. "A place to join hands, raise our voices and put our boundless passion to work to change the course of this disease."

"In my heart, purple represents Rose Schneider and many, many others with whom I have connected because of our shared pancreatic cancer bond," Marquardt later wrote. "I'll forever see purple as I continue to honor my mother's memory and work to carry out her legacy."

Trebek announced he was diagnosed with the disease in March 2019. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, announced he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in December.

Since Trebek revealed his diagnosis, he has found himself the center of attention on the Jeopardy! set, which can be uncomfortable even after hosting the show for more than three decades.

"I don't want to get too mushy," Trebek told The Associated Press earlier this month. "I got mushy when young Dhruv (contestant Dhruv Gaur) wrote his final Jeopardy! response, 'We love you Alex!' That caught me by surprise, brought me to the edge of tears."

"It's humbling to realize there are so many people out there who care enough about you to want to pray for you every day, who want to send you their best wishes," Trebek added.

The Jeopardy! GOAT contestants have made their admiration for Trebek clear throughout the tournament. Holhauzer called Trebek the "GHOST" - "Greatest Host on Syndicated TV" - in one Final Jeopardy response.

"I feel like I've grown up watching Alex and he's the closest thing my generation has to a Walter Cronkite - a broadcaster who you just trust because he's in your home every night," Jennings said on GMA. "It's amazing that he's still with us and he's facing his health battles with such courage."


The Jeopardy! GOAT tournament continues on ABC Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. Jennings has won two games, while Holzhauer won one.

Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless via Getty Images