To be successful, you mustn’t lose focus - Diana Flores.
In the vibrant landscape of flag football, Diana Flores, a 26-year-old quarterback from Mexico City, stands out as a remarkable figure. She holds the title of world champion in this discipline, but she also carries the prestigious role of an NFL ambassador. Beyond her on-field successes, Flores plays an essential role as a representative of the NFL, with a strong intention to inspire young women to achieve their goals and break down barriers perpetuating inequality between male and female athletes.
"Representing women, not only in sports but as a Latina. Making history hand in hand with the NFL for my sport and for women. Being in the Pro Bowl as an offensive coordinator with legends like Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis. Collaborating with them with my experience, knowledge, and passion in that sport meant a lot to me. Being a woman in a man's world is something I immensely value," Flores stated to the NFL.
The outstanding Mexican athlete has gained increased recognition in the U.S. after her participation in the commercial "Run With It" during Super Bowl LVII. In this two-minute ad, Flores shines as she runs alongside Larry King in a parking lot, skillfully evading Davante Adams and other pursuers trying to capture her flags. The young athlete adeptly dodged each opponent while conveying a message of unity between two cultures by conversing in Spanish with the actress portraying her mother, as mentioned by Flores in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. The ad concludes with a caption that reads, "To the women who move football forward, we can't wait to see where you take this sport."
The quarterback of the Mexico Women's National Flag Football team and the champion of the 2022 World Games has achieved a milestone by having her jersey and a signed football added to the collection of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This accomplishment makes her the first Flag Football player to be recognized in this prestigious museum, symbolizing a significant step towards the inclusion and growing importance of flag football in the rich history of the sport.
In the documentary "Groundbreakers," Flores shares her story with Billie Jean King, revealing the challenges she faced in her childhood. At that time, she and her teammates were forced to play on a field full of garbage, where before each practice, their coach asked them to pick it up to be able to train. The actual football field was exclusively for boys, forcing them to play in a distant location. This testimony illustrates the barriers women faced in accessing proper sports facilities and how, despite adversity, Flores and her team persevered, laying the groundwork for future generations of female athletes.
Breaking Ground in Flag Football
Achieving the status of a world champion in Mexico does not translate the same way for female athletes as it does for male athletes. These outstanding female athletes do not enjoy the same economic benefits as their male counterparts. The persistent gender pay gap in professional sports means that their dedication to their discipline does not result in significant financial gains. Despite their remarkable achievements and victories, women participating at professional levels of competition face systemic challenges that underscore the urgent need to address and rectify gender inequities in Mexican sports.
For a clearer picture, according to the draft of the bill, male flag football players in the highest tier of the Mexican league earn approximately $37,185.47 per month, compared to their female counterparts who average only $216 per month.
"A female player here in Mexico has to work 10 hours to earn what a male player earns in one hour. That's the situation we are in right now, at least that's what I know for soccer in our country," Flores told NBC News in a video interview.
Flag Football Gains Traction in the United States
Flag football is experiencing a notable surge in popularity and making its way even to California high schools where the inaugural women's season launched. At the collegiate level, an increasing number of programs are providing opportunities for this sport with the semi-professional league launched in 2017. There are plans to introduce a men's professional division in 2024. Additionally, the International Olympic Committee has announced that flag football will make its Olympic debut at the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
This rise presents a unique opportunity for women in sports such as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) endorsement which officially sanctioned it as a college sport for student-athletes in 2020. Flores' prominent participation in the 2023 Pro Bowl marks a significant boost that will resonate with women and young girls to reinforce the notion that football is for everyone.
It's not only women who are drawn to this type of football, it's also former NFL players like Izell Reese who is president and CEO of RCX Sports and collaborated with organizations like National Flag Football to broaden the game's reach.
“The recent interest in flag football really opens the door completely for women because they will be looked upon as professionals playing the game, the same way they are looked at as collegiate student athletes playing the game now,” Reese said to CNN.