Metro Weekly

Gay Flag Football Player To Announce NFL Draft Pick

Joel Horton, Gay Bowl liaison for the National Gay Flag Football League, will announce pick No. 87 for the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, April 29.

Joel Horton (center) with Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell and the Cardinals cheerleaders – Photo: Joel Horton.

In a historic first, a representative of the national Gay Flag Football League will announce the third-round pick for the Arizona Cardinals on the second day of the 2022 NFL draft. 

Joel Horton, the Gay Bowl liaison for the National Gay Flag Football League, the nonprofit organization representing more than 200 LGBTQ flag football teams in over 22 cities, has been invited to announce the Arizona Cardinals’ third-round draft pick — No. 87 out of 262 in total — on Friday, April, 29, the second day of the draft, according to the LGBTQ sports website Outsports.

This year’s NFL draft — an annually televised seven-round event in which all 32 NFL teams select various rookie players to add to their pre-season rosters, in the hope of eventually making a final 53-man roster — will be streamed from Caesars Forum on the Las Vegas Strip, in Paradise, Nevada.

While most first-round picks are announced by the NFL Commissioner, teams routinely select famous players or former players, local community groups, representatives of campaigns or causes, or members of their own fan base to announce special first-rounders or latter-round picks.

Prior to Horton announcing the pick, the NFL will play a video touting the NGFFL, Gay Bowl, and the NFL’s support for the organization. Joining Horton on stage as he announces the pick will be NGFFL board members Shigeo Iwamiya and Jodie Turner.

Horton, a longtime member of the Phoenix Gay Flag Football League, who has also played for NGFFL’s New York and D.C. leagues, has previously praised 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,” Horton said of Lee. “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 Gay Bowl, the national NGFFL team championship, which was held in Phoenix. In doing so, they became the only the fifth NFL franchise to sponsor Gay Bowl, and the most generous NFL sponsor in terms of their financial support.

“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.”

“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.”

Horton, a Cardinals fan, will the first publicly out gay man to announce a draft pick for an NFL franchise. While there are no out LGBTQ players in this year’s draft class, Colorado State tight end Trey McBride, believed to be a second- or third-round prospect, will make history as the first son of a same-sex couple to be drafted into the NFL.

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam made history in 2014 as the first out gay NFL player to be drafted when he was selected by the then-St. Louis Rams, ultimately ending up on the team’s practice squad and then moving to several other teams’ practice squads.

Since that time, former NFL journeyman and defensive end Ryan Russell, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has come out as bisexual, although he never started in a regular-season game after coming out.

Last year, defensive end Carl Nassib, of the Las Vegas Raiders, made history as the first openly gay player to be part of a team’s 53-man regular-season roster.

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