The league was created by Christopher Lewellyn-Otten, who had played in Boston’s LGBTQ flag football league previously and moved to Minneapolis in June. When he attended an LGBTQ event held by the Vikings in June, he approached them about partnering.
“As soon as I mentioned it to them they said it wasn’t if they were going to partner with us, but what that partnership would look like,” Lewellyn-Otten said.
The relationship involves both a financial contribution on behalf of the Vikings. Lewellyn-Otten said that will be put toward helping people cover league registration costs and travel to LGBTQ flag football tournaments in other cities. There is also a broader hope for partnership on both sides, and Lewellyn-Otten said he is hopeful that joint volunteer opportunities between the Vikings and the gay league may be on the horizon.
“We view ourselves as a partner in various efforts moving forward,” said Vikings spokesperson Jeff Anderson. “How that partnership evolves and grows will be determined but we intend to have further conversations in the offseason.”
Vikings COO Kevin Warren told Outsports the team’s partnership with the Minnesota Gay Flag Football League is an important reflection of the values of the team.
“We have been and will continue to be an inclusive community here at the Minnesota Vikings, in the environment we’ve created for our staff and within the community,” Warren said. “We will continue to treat everyone with the respect that they deserve.”
The Vikings have in the last year demonstrated a commitment to the LGBTQ community in multiple ways. In June the team hosted an LGBTQ event featuring various speakers and panel discussions about diversity. The team also participated in Minneapolis Pride. Before the team’s Sept. 23 game against the Buffalo Bills, they hosted openly gay former Vikings player Esera Tuaolo to sing the National Anthem. The Vikings also allowed one of their LGBTQ employees, Amy Werdine, to speak publicly about being out on the team.
“I love that I am able to be my most authentic self every day at work,” Werdine wrote for Outsports last month.
The Vikings had some cleaning up to do after reaching a 2014 settlement with former Chris Kluwe, who claimed the Vikings had created a work environment hostile to LGBTQ people. Warren said the partnership with the MNGFFL has nothing to do with any court settlement.
“This is something that we are creating and maintaining, operating an inclusive environment,” Warren said. “And inclusive community outreach is critical to us. It’s very important to us. This is not some requirement by the courts. This is something we’re building here, whether it’s gender, race, sexual orientation, veterans, all these different things. We are striving every day to create an environment that is totally inclusive.”
Various NFL teams have worked with LGBT flag football leagues. In 2003 the New England Patriots sent Hall of Famer Andre Tippett to do the coin toss at Gay Bowl III. In 2007 the New York Giants sent a staff member to speak at Gay Bowl 7. The Patriots and Denver Broncos have each been a financial sponsor of the last two Gay Bowls, hosted in their respective cities.
Warren said that he can already see the effects of the LGBTQ outreach, as he will see rainbow-flag symbols around the team’s front office.
The team’s diversity and inclusion efforts hit home for Warren. As a black man in America, he said he has experienced things that weren’t proper. Despite not being LGBTQ himself, he understands the struggles of minorities and wants to help wherever he can.
“I made it a point that when I was afforded the opportunity to create an inclusive environment I was going to do it, and this is part of it,” he said.
You can find the Minnesota Gay Flag Football League on Instagram @mngffl, on Twitter @mngffl, or on their Web site.