By Jared Garduno and Shigeo Iwamiya
It was great to see the NFL replace its usual logo on social media with a more colorful rainbow version this past June as many of us were celebrating Pride Month. It was even more amazing to see how the NFL supported LGBTQ+ History Month, the latest in its growing support for the LGBTQ+ community.
The NFL has been making strides in diversity for several years. In 2017 the New England Patriots partnered with the National Gay Flag Football League (NGFFL) to produce Gay Bowl XVII in Boston. That partnership fostered a strong relationship between the NFL and the NGFFL.
In 2018 the Denver Broncos stepped up to support Gay Bowl XVIII in Denver. It was because of the NFL’s support of organizations like Gay Bowl that Compete Sports Diversity awarded the NFL the National Sports Organization Award at its 2018 Compete Sports Diversity Awards in Tempe, Arizona. Compete Sports Diversity also awarded the NFL a two-year membership in the Compete Sports Diversity Council, a group of 120+ organizations dedicated to further sports diversity. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are also members. The Cardinals also accepted the Professional Sports Pioneer Award at the event and former Kansas City Chiefs player Ryan O’Callaghan was also honored that year.
In 2019 the NFL continued its relationship with the NGFFL by sponsoring Gay Bowl XIX in partnership with the New York Jets Foundation and the New York Giants. The NFL also produced a short documentary about Gay Bowl XIX that aired on the NFL Network (the short also included video of the Gay Bowl XIX official guide produced by Compete Sports Diversity).
The NGFFL’s relationship with NFL is a solid partnership that continues to grow in many ways. The partnership represents a strong commitment to their mission to advance conversations on inclusivity within sports. The NGFFL continues to build an on-going relationship with Marcos Perez and NFL Pride that looks to provide consultancy not only within the NFL but also by partnering with the leagues related to LGBTQ+ activities and initiatives. The group continues to foster dialogue that builds an inclusive and safe NFL.
Just this year the NFL hired a Chief Diversity Officer and through this exclusive quote he confirms their stance. “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion expands across many communities, including the LGBTQ+ community,” said Jonathan Beane, NFL Chief Diversity Officer. “We’ve only scratched the surface, but we aim to enhance Pride at the League and to further support the LGBTQ+ community through comprehensive initiatives, partnerships and programming.”
Given the many positive steps the NFL has already taken, we weren’t surprised when the league launched new initiatives to further engage the LGBTQ+ community and support sports diversity during LGBTQ+ History Month. The NFL showcased their dedicated website (NFL.com/PRIDE), created a PSA celebrating Out NFL Legends voicing support and allyship; expanded partnerships with GLAAD and The Trevor Partnership, created a PRIDE-themed NFL shield and an assortment of LGBTQ+ content airing on the NFL Network throughout October. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations even penned an op-ed on NFL.com in support of active NFL players who are contemplating coming out.
The PSA, produced with the support of The Trevor Project and launched on National Coming Out Day, featured NFL Legends Wade Davis (2015 Compete Sports Diversity Honoree), Ryan O’Callaghan, Ryan Russell and Jeff Rohrer alongside current NFL players Anthony Barr, Calais Campbell, Robb Gronkowski, Anthony Harris, Marlon Humphrey, Deandre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry and Dalton Risner.
Clearly, the NFL’s commitment to diversity goes beyond the month of October. It is dedicated to fostering an inclusive sports environment on a fulltime basis and we are excited to be a partner in this important effort.