The New York Giants were proud to host members of the New York Gay Football League (NYGFL) on Friday for a season kickoff clinic event at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The Giants have a rewarding history with the organization, and Friday's event presented a unique opportunity for NYGFL members to engage with Giants coaches and players to develop their skills ahead of the NYGFL's Sept. 24 season kickoff.
Giants personnel spent the evening with nearly 70 NYGFL members. Tackles Roy Mbaeteka and Matt Peart and safety Trenton Thompson each facilitated stations. Angela Baker—a two-time champion in women's tackle football and a Giants offensive quality control coach – spearheaded a fourth station. NYGFL athletes rotated to each quadrant to participate in drills before enjoying dinner at the facility.
Baker detailed the mutual benefit of the partnership: "Football is family. The community that we build on Sundays – we want people rooting for us. And it's important for us to give back and root for them every other day of the week."
The Giants boast a deeper connection to the NYGFL as well. Natalie Wizel, a Giants content producer who has been with the organization for eight years, has been an active NYGFL member since 2016 and a team captain since 2017. The partnership hit even closer to home with Wizel's participation in the clinic.
Founded in 2004, the NYGFL has nearly quadrupled in membership in its 18 years of existence. The league's two divisions – the Open Division and the Women's+ Division – work in unison to cultivate an inclusive and diverse environment for all members. The league's 24 teams will compete Saturday evenings for the ensuing eight weeks, and each team will qualify for playoffs.
The New York Giants were proud to host members of the New York Gay Football League (NYGFL) on Friday for a season kickoff clinic event at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
The NYGFL is a member of the non-profit National Gay Flag Football League (NGFFL), which serves LGBTQIA+ people and allies. The NYGFL participates in the annual Gay Bowl tournament each year, connecting nearly 1200 LGBTQIA+ athletes and their families in a selected host city. The New York Giants partnered with the NYGFL in 2007 and again in 2019 when Gay Bowls VII and XIX, respectively, took place in New York City. Former long snapper Zak Deossie took part in the latter as well, presenting awards upon the tournament's conclusion. Gay Bowl XXII takes place this October in Waikiki, Hawaii.
Though the NYGFL is centered around football, the league delivers so much more. Regan McKendry described how he has benefited from the league as a 13-year veteran. McKendry is the assistant commissioner of the Open Division and has served as a referee for the past five years.
"It's about football, but it's also about the social community we have afterward," he said.
Leslie Goldstein, Former Women's+ Commissioner and an 11-year league veteran, shared a special personal anecdote. She and her wife met through the NYGFL, and the league postponed games so that 80 NYGFL members could share in their wedding celebration.
"That's what this league is," Goldstein said. "It's about making sure that you have a place where you feel that you are welcome and that you can be yourself and also get to play football."
Commissioner Monty Clinton spoke about the league's broader implications: "For many growing up, playing sports in school may not have always felt like a safe space. Many LGBTQIA+ athletes have had to carry the weight of constant bullying, possible harm, or the fear of being outed. The stereotype of who a gay person should be does not include sports. The NYGFL challenges this notion and allows people to find acceptance in football."
Clinton's message resonated with first-year NYGFL athlete Eliza DeMers, who shared a positive view of the clinic: "It was a fantastic opportunity to know that the queer community is welcome within the NFL and football. There aren't a ton of players who are part of the community, so it was great." She admitted that her fondest memory of the clinic will be a pass-rushing drill against Mbaeteka and Peart.
At the end of the day, the NYGFL's impact transcends sports.
"I can't count how many people have told me that the NYGFL has changed their lives," Clinton said. "It sounds cheesy but it's really true – the league has given so many people a home."
The home that the NYGFL builds is instrumental to flourishing diversity and inclusion in football. As an annual sponsor, the Giants look forward to celebrating the NYGFL after their season by participating in the league's Hall of Fame festivities.