The New England Patriots will reportedly become the first NFL team to sponsor the Gay Bowl, an annual tournament to crown the country’s best LGBT flag football team.
Outsports.com’s Cyd Zeigler reported the news this week, citing the Patriots, as well as Boston’s LGBT flag football team, which announced the groundbreaking sponsorship during its spring awards banquet Saturday.
It’s unclear how long the sponsorship was in the works, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft has supported Bostons’s FLAG flag football team at least since the end of April when he joined the team at a banquet dinner to honor an LGBT high school athlete Chris Morse.
Gay Bowl chairmen Danny Tyrrell and Dave Hamilton also attended the banquet.
While Kraft and other Patriots staff have made headlines for their open support of President Trump, whose policies several LGBT advocates have criticized, the team has been one of the more inclusive organizations in the NFL.
In 2015, the team signed an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage. LGBT advocate Marc Solomon told Outsports at the time, Kraft and his wife Myra also signed the brief as individuals.
“[Kraft] was unequivocal in lending the support of the Patriots simply, he said, because it’s the right thing to do,” Solomon said.
While the Patriots will sponsor this year’s Gay Bowl, which is set to be held in Boston in October, it is not the first time the team has shown their support for the event. In 2003, the team sent former player Andre Tippett to the event to officiate over the tournament’s ceremonial coin toss, Outsports reports.
As the Patriots continue to surge forward in their support of LGBT rights, so does the NFL. Reversing the reputation the league earned last year when it refused to move the owners’ meeting from North Carolina despite the state’s bathroom law that many saw as anti-LGBT, the league began the year by inviting Lady Gaga, an icon in the LGBT community, to perform at the Super Bowl.
The league followed up her performance with a warning to Texas in February about a proposed bill that would restrict people from using select restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
“The NFL embraces inclusiveness,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle in February. “We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events, and NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”
The NFL’s critique, along with others by the NBA, NCAA and other economic drivers, eventually led Republican backers of the bill to narrow its scope. Instead of all public restrooms, the law now would only apply to restrooms in public schools. However, with less than a week left in the 2017 legislative session, the bill remains in limbo, according to the Dallas Morning News.