On Christmas Eve, CBS Sports will share a short documentary-film project — also promoting it in the coming weeks leading up to CBS’ broadcast of Super Bowl LVIII — that celebrates the LGBTQ community’s involvement in the sport of flag football. It reflects over 30 years of the community participating in the sport.
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski was the first commissioner of the NGFFL. He reflected on the journey of the league that started on a dirt-and-grass field at Hollywood High School over three decades ago.
“When I first started playing flag football in Los Angeles in 1989, something like the NFL’s involvement would have been impossible to imagine,” Buzinski said. “And just as hard in 2002 when we held the first Gay Bowl on the mostly dirt field at Hollywood High with three teams in a day that ended with the players crammed into a hot tub at a West Hollywood hotel. It’s like the founders of the NFL in the early 1920s imagining what the league would become.”
The New England Patriots and owner Robert Kraft, who hosted the production team and the Boston LGBTQ Flag Football League at Gillette Stadium, have been longtime supporters of the LGBTQ community, including supporting and appearing at the most-recent Boston-hosted Gay Bowl.
The piece has been shepherded by a production crew that included “a number of LGBTQ+ members of the CBS Sports team,” CBS Sports told Outsports. That includes CBS Sports senior director of creative marketing Mike Defusco.
“Our vision was clear and straightforward: to demonstrate that football is a game for everyone, regardless of who you are or how you identify,” DeFusco told Outsports in a statement. “It was an empowering experience to work with a primarily LGBTQ+ crew. The collaboration and result proves that the spirit of football transcends all boundaries.”
The NFL and various teams have had a strong relationship with the NGFFL and member organizations over the years. It started in 2003 when the New England Patriots worked with the Boston league in supporting that year’s Gay Bowl. Other teams like the Denver Broncos and New York Giants have followed suit.
Current NGFFL commissioner Joel Horton said he hopes the league continues to expand its inclusive reach, and that every LGBTQ flag football player sees themself in the piece.
“I hope they see their value and worth in how they are changing sports culture simply by playing the game with grit, determination and passion,” Horton said. “I think that simplicity makes the piece so powerful. These were not elite athletes, and this was not Gay Bowl. These are the same players who take our fields every week in our local leagues across the country and Canada.
Tony Ardolino, commissioner of the FLAG flag football league in Boston and a participant in the documentary short, said he has been moved by the commitment CBS Sports and the NFL have made to the community’s involvement in the sport. Having competed in soccer, baseball and basketball for a Catholic high school in Massachusetts, Ardolino said he couldn’t have imagined this support when he was a teenager.
“Flash-forward to today, I have been able to recreate my relationship with sports and see it as a way to celebrate who I am and give that confidence to new players who get to find themselves through sport,” Ardolino said. “Feeling the support and love from CBS Sports, The NFL and the New England Patriots demonstrates how far our community has come and that we are seen, heard and respected.”
Chris Serwacki is also a member of the FLAG Flag Football League in Boston and a participant in the video.
“Taking part in this piece was such a meaningful experience,” Serwacki said. “That CBS Sports and the NFL are willing to start a new chapter in recognizing and celebrating queer athletes, is just incredible and I am honored to have been a part of this. I hope this inspires young queer athletes to not give up on their dreams.”
Various NFL teams have developed a supportive relationship with local LGBTQ flag football leagues, including the Patriots, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings.