The NFL is actively taking steps to ensure that football no longer remains a male-dominated sport by introducing the NFL Flag league which gives an opportunity to both boys and girls to excel in the sport. Teams have also begun to introduce and support flag football leagues at the youth level in order to promote the sport, recently the New York Giants donated $60,000 to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association in order to support the inaugural girls flag football leagues.
The latest team to take a similar step is the Philadelphia Eagles, the team has partnered with the NFL Foundation and made a donation of $100,000 to fund equipment to expand access and equity within the youth sports and recreation programs in under-resourced communities. The team has also pledged to distribute a total of 6,000 sports bras to girls across the Philadelphia School District.
Mariah Riddick, the junior QB for the St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls flag football team highlighted some of the challenges that she has faced growing up and playing the sport that she loves. “Being a girl who loves and plays football at my age is hard when trying to prove yourself as a football player, many boys doubt my true love for the sport and my ability to play. It was hard when boys wouldn’t let me play with them. I feel now as this league is growing more, more people are starting to see that girls have what it takes to play football and be successful at it.”
It is refreshing to see girls step up and be encouraged by the league to participate in a male-dominated sport, one that is considered the national game and the bloodline of an entire nation. The Superbowl is one of the most-watched events worldwide, it is rather unfortunate that it lacked gender inclusivity until this point, however, better late than never!
With this step, the Eagles are the first NFL team to back female athletes from their community in this role, Jen Kavanagh, Eagles Senior VP of Media and Marketing said, “Ultimately, we are attempting to remove barriers, barriers to entry for girls who want to play sports and football in particular. We are creating a path that we are hoping leads to girls football being a sanctioned sport.”
In the first season of the flag league, 16 schools will be participating and the Eagles are looking to include over 100 teams in the coming years. To inaugurate the first season, the Eagles hosted a jamboree for all the teams last month at Lincoln Financial, the home of the Eagles.
Riddick, who models her game around QB Jalen Hurts said she and her teammates felt like actual Eagles players while running out of the tunnel onto the field. Hurts has also been vocal about including women in the league as he represented the Women’s Sports Foundation with his cleats.
In addition to this, the Eagles have also picked some girls from the league and invited them to attend the NFL Draft in Vegas this week. Riddick is one of the few girls selected who expects the moment to be one that she will never forget!