During Pride Month, the New York Giants showed their continued support of the New York Gay Football League.
The NYGFL is a 7-on-7 flag football league inclusive to all, but primarily catering to the LGBTQIA+ community in and around New York City. Since being founded in 2004 with just six teams and roughly 70 players, the league has evolved into one of the largest gay football leagues in the country with 20+ teams and a community of several hundred active members annually.
The Giants recently welcomed members of the NYGFL to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center to celebrate the newest class of the NYGFL Hall of Fame.
"Today, we basically came here to honor the New York Gay Flag Football League, the past and the current Hall of Fame members," said Monty Clinton, the Commissioner of the NYGFL. "Members got a chance to come out and meet some of the rookies of the New York Giants, obviously do some photo shoots, as well as kind of play a little football, hand out some awards and a luncheon."
The New York Giants have been proud sponsors of the NYGFL for several seasons, and also host practices and clinics for NYGFL athletes throughout the year at the practice facility. The partnership between the Giants and NYGFL began in 2017. Natalie Wizel, content producer in the Giants' marketing department, has been an active member of the NYGFL since 2016 and a captain since 2017. Upon becoming a captain that year, Wizel was able to participate on some of the league's tournament teams. The NYGFL sends teams consisting of the league's most competitive players to several tournaments each year, including the Florida Sunshine Cup every February, Chicago Pride in June, and the national Gay Bowl Tournament in October. These tournaments require booking flights and hotels, so team members reach out to people within their circles for sponsorship opportunities.
That sparked the connection between the NYGFL and the Giants, a partnership that has only grown over the years.
"The level of not only acceptance, but celebration that the Giants have shown me and wanting to extend that to the community means everything to me," said Dr. Lani Lawrence, the Giants' Director of Wellness and Clinical Services, Player Engagement. "Events like this are really important because it gives us a chance to celebrate those who aren't really celebrated. And so, I look forward to being able to host this event again next year, and hopefully it becoming an ongoing relationship and connection with the football side of the Giants."
Over the last eight years, the NYGFL has recognized outstanding members of its community for their dedication to the league both on and off the field by inducting them into the Hall of Fame. The NYGFL Hall of Fame serves to recognize the achievements and contributions its members have made to both the sport of flag football and the LGBTQIA+ community.
Seven members of the NYGFL community were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year: Briana Jacobson, Sam Lehman, Regan McKendry, Amanda Metcalf, Norman Piasecki, Jamar Wilson and Derek Danton (owner of The Eagle NYC). This brought the total number of Hall of Fame inductees to 40.
"When you're an LGBT young person and you don't feel included in your community and you may be that type of person who is very involved in sports, you feel lonely," said Lehman, NYGFL Head Official and member of the latest Hall of Fame class. "When you find an LGBT sports outlet, you grab on to it and you feel like you have found family and you feel secure. It literally helps your self-esteem and your confidence."
"Flag football gives individuals a safe space to be able to come and actually learn, grow, make friendships, make mistakes and really kind of, it gives them a place within the community," Clinton added. "And so, I think that these types of organizations and football saves lives."