Sam Gordon from Utah was a viral star at the age of 9. Now she runs a women’s pro football league

Gordon will serve on the X League Advisory Board before eventually moving more into advertising and support

(Rick Bowmer A{ ) Sam Gordon catches a football on October 20, 2020 in Herriman, Utah. Gordon was the only girl in a tackle football league when she started playing the game at age 9. Now Gordon is taking on a leadership position in a new women’s football league.

When she was 9 years old, she starred in a viral video. Ten years later, she sits at the head of a new professional sports league.

Sam Gordon, now 19, has been appointed to the advisory board of the X League, a new all-player 7-a-side professional football league. Her role in the league, she said, is an “ownership, managerial and kind of stewarding” position “just to make sure she stays on track.”

The commitment to women’s football has become Gordon’s life’s work. She took the excitement from her viral video and brought it to her photo on a Wheaties box, a Utah girls’ tackle football league and an appearance in a Super Bowl commercial — to name a few.

Gordon was also one of the plaintiffs in a Title IX federal suit attempting to have girls’ tackle football sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association as an official sport. The judge ruled against the plaintiffs and the case is now on appeal.

But while Gordon is proud that she founded and plays in the Utah Girls Tackle Football League and fights a legal fight for the sport in her home state, she believes her involvement in the X League is the next chapter in her advocacy.

“I really believe that this was just the beginning of my football journey and that I’m really committed to women’s participation,” said Gordon. “This league has the potential to do a lot more, I think.”

Gordon is currently a student at Columbia University studying film and media. She plays on the university soccer team. As such, she doesn’t have much time to get heavily involved in the league at the moment, but expects that to change at some point.

“The logistics are a little crazy,” Gordon said. “But over time, I plan to become more involved and more of a leader in the league.”

Gordon said that over time and with increasing commitment, she will earn equity in the league.

The X League has teams in eight cities across the United States and plans to expand to all 32 NFL markets. These cities are Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City and Arizona.

The other two members of the league’s advisory board – NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka and Shaun Harvey, former chairman of the English Football League – want to create similar leagues abroad as well as in Canada and Mexico.

Aside from the 7v7 aspect, Gordon said the X League will innovate in how it’s delivered to audiences. Players and coaches will wear microphones, she said, and viewers will be able to choose their own camera angles as they watch. She also hopes to use her currently developing skills in film and media to create content for the league in the future.

The X League, which begins its inaugural season on June 10, is essentially the continuation of the Legends Football League, which was originally named the Lingerie Football League when it was formed in 2009 before undergoing a major rebrand in 2013 and later restructuring to its current form became. Gordon said the league’s lingerie iteration is “sexist” and doesn’t put women in the best position to succeed.

But this league, Gordon said, will be different. What began in Utah with the girls’ soccer league, she said, can only help to undermine stereotypes about women playing the sport.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Sam Gordon adjusts her ponytail as she walks across a field on October 20, 2020 in Herriman, Utah. Gordon was the only girl in a tackle football league when she started playing the game at age 9. Now Gordon is taking on a leadership position in a new women’s football league.

“I think this league has the power to do that by putting women in a position where they’re actually playing and competing and getting the media attention they deserve and the sponsors,” Gordon said. “So I think by breaking down stereotypes, this league has the potential to make a lot more change and make a bigger impact nationally.”

Coupled with Gordon’s excitement about working with the pro athletes who will play for the X League, there is some jitters about whether people will be interested in watching games. But she seemed confident in the result.

“I’m nervous because people aren’t very receptive to it initially, and I think there’s things like the LFL that can put them in a bad light at times,” Gordon said. “But I think [with] Through our approach to this league and the true empowerment of women, we will be able to find like-minded people who are just as excited about this change as we are.”

Gordon said it feels “empowering” to be a part of the league and help bring about change.

“I’m really excited to be in a league at this level because…women’s football has the potential to be something as big as the men’s version,” said Gordon. “And I’m excited to be able to give women the opportunity to get paid, receive media sponsorship and get the attention we deserve as players and athletes and broadcasters.”

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