The Arizona Cardinals are sponsoring Gay Bowl XXI in Phoenix, Ariz. this fall, in a show of support for the LGBTQ community and gay athletes. According to the NGFFL, it’s the highest financial level at which any NFL team has supported the LGBTQ flag football tournament.
Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said the support is a reflection of the team’s support for the community.
“As a team and as a league, we receive support from a fan base as diverse as society itself,” Bidwill told Outsports in a written statement. “That certainly includes our fans within the LGBTQ community and we are grateful for the opportunity to support this event. I am certain that Arizona will once again prove to be an exceptional host.”
The first NFL team to work with the Gay Bowl was the New England Patriots in 2003. The New York Giants followed behind in 2007. Yet formal sponsorship of the event by NFL teams didn’t start until 2017, when the Patriots financially supported the Gay Bowl and team owner Robert Kraft gave a speech at the event’s closing party.
“We feel we need more of this in the world,” Kraft told the group of cheering LGBTQ football players at the time. “We’re going to do a lot to build bridges in America through sports.”
“It means everything to not only have first, but the fifth, NFL team, along with the NFL itself, support the NGFFL,” said NGFFL commissioner Shigeo Iwamiya. “Those partnerships, and the level of visibility they provide the NGFFL, symbolize that we matter in the cannon of sports. It helps solidify LGBTQ+ athletics as welcomed in a space where LGBTQ+ athletes may have not always felt welcomed or included.”
Outsports has previously highlighted 55 different efforts the NFL, its players and teams have made to build a more LGBTQ-inclusive environment amongst the league’s teams, players and fans.
How have the Cardinals and people associated with the team previously supported the LGBTQ community and diversity? Bidwill and the team released a thoughtful statement after the death of gay staffer Rob Brakel. In 2015, Bidwill cited Michael Sam as a reason the Cardinals made an historic hire or coaching intern Jen Welter. Star receiver DeAndre Hopkins has talked publicly about his lesbian sister, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury previously applauded Kansas State OT Scott Frantz for coming out as gay.
Front office. Locker room. Coaching staff. This sponsorship is a positive next step.
The Gay Bowl in Phoenix will be held Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, when temperatures will be (fingers crossed) a bit lower. The large-scale tournament will be hosted by the Phoenix Gay Flag football League and will include dozens of teams from across North America featuring players from across the LGBTQ community. This is the third time the Phoenix area has hosted the Gay Bowl. Registration is now open.