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Will there ever be a mainstream female American football league? (OP-ED)

American football is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in the United States. Additionally, it’s likely the most male-dominated sport out of them all. It undoubtedly brings the question of the existence of female participation in the sport and female leagues.

Surprisingly enough, for those that aren’t aware, there has been female participation in sports.

According to Diario AS Patricia Paliankas in August 1970 and Liz Heaston in October 1997 were among the many first women to play professional football matches outside of the NFL. 

Since then, organizations have been created to bridge the gap between men and women within the sport, with the hopes of one day for women to play amongst the official teams within the NFL.

Outside of the NFL other organizations have sprung up to start their female-centered leagues, or venture into other similar sports like flag football and tackle football for more opportunity. Some of the most popular leagues include NFL Flag Football, one of the largest youth flag football organizations within the U.S., the Women’s Football Alliance, and the American Flag Football League. The growth has even seen support from senior executives from the NFL, like its vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent.

“The expansion of girls’ flag football is essential to the growth of the game and preservation of the values it has contributed to society for decades,” said Vincent in 2020. “Girl’s flag demonstrates that football is for all, and the greater the participation, the stronger the game, and the more young women can build the transferrable skills football provides for achieving success in life.”

According to the NFL Flag football saw a 40% jump in female participation in flag football in schools between 2021 and 2022. Outside of tackle football, leagues like the Women’s National Football Conference have continued the push for equality within typical American football. 

More controversially, X League has grown to be another rising female football league despite the criticism for the objectifying uniforms the female participants wear.

Regardless, it’s clear that female participation in football isn’t non-existent, interest has only been seen to skyrocket as time goes on. That said, it’s the lack of opportunity, eyes from potential audiences, and existing prejudices that keep it from reaching levels similar to or on par with that of the NFL.

However, like any other roadblock, through the dedication and collaborative effort of those within the industry, those gaps can be closed. If other sports like Tennis and Basketball have found a way for women to thrive in it professionally, so can American Football.


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