Joel Horton has been a member of the Phoenix Gay Flag Football League since 2013, when he moved to the area. Previously he had played in the New York Gay Flag Football League. He has participated in multiple Gay Bowls, the annual world championship for gay flag football.
Horton is also the Gay Bowl liaison for the National Gay Flag Football League. He pointed to Cardinals CFO Greg Lee as being instrumental in building a relationship between the team and the LGBTQ community.
“He was very open and receptive to finding ways to partner. He’s taken personal time to get to know the league and why we love it so much. With that personal connection it’s enabled him to leverage the resources of an NFL franchise to engage the community.”
In 2021, the Cardinals were a main sponsor of the Gay Bowl in Phoenix.
“They wanted to make it a point that it was important to them,” Horton said of the Cardinals’ involvement in Gay Bowl. “we’re everywhere. We’re all over the country, in cities where there are NFL franchises. And I hope other leagues are able to partner with NFL franchises.”
There are LGBTQ flag football leagues in at least 22 cities in North America.
“Both the NFL and the Cardinals enjoy strong support from a large, diverse fan base and the LGBTQ community is certainly part of that,” Cardinals owner Mike Bidwill told Outsports in a statement. “Including members of this community among the many fans representing teams throughout the draft is part of an important and intentional effort that these types of league events reflect as wide and inclusive a cross section of our fan base as possible.”
The pick Horton will announce is currently slated for No. 87 overall. Joining Horton on stage will be NGFFL board members Shigeo Iwamiya and Jodie Turner.
Jared Garduno, a longtime leader of the PGFFL and a member of the NGFFL Hall Of Fame, said he was deeply proud to see this opportunity to showcase the relationship between the Cardinals and the local LGBTQ flag football community.
“I feel like the Cardinals and the NFL are like our big brothers, there to protect us and to say, ‘We’re doing this and you’re not going to bully our little brother,” Garduno said. “I’m really proud of this and very excited.”
NFL teams routinely select fans to announce certain picks during the annual rookie draft.
Horton, a Cardinals (and specifically Larry Fitzgerald) fan is the first publicly out gay man we know of to announce an draft pick for an NFL franchise.
One thing we know is that Horton will not be announcing the name of a publicly out gay player as the Cardinals’ pick, as there are none in this year’s NFL Draft (though there are undoubtedly gay players up for grabs).
Previously there have been two players with a shot at being selected: Missouri DE Michael Sam (selected in the seventh round in 2014 by the Rams) and Kansas State OT Scott Frantz (undrafted in a pandemic-complicated 2020).