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NFL and Special Olympics Announce Partnership to Expand Unified Flag Football in the United States

NFL to Host Exhibition Game During Pro Bowl Week in Orlando

Press Release

The NFL and Special Olympics are teaming up to provide opportunities for athletes of all abilities to ’PLAY 60’ through the expansion of Special Olympics Unified Flag Football, it was announced today. PLAY 60 is the league's youth health and wellness platform to get kids across the country active for 60 minutes a day. To kick off their new partnership, the NFL and Special Olympics will host a unified flag football game on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 2 P.M. at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Twenty-four local Special Olympics Florida athletes and Unified partners (people without disabilities) will compete against each other, breaking down stereotypes and forging friendships on the field.

NFL Foundation grants will fund Special Olympics Unified Sports®, which builds inclusive communities by enabling people with and without intellectual disabilities to play on the same team. Flag football, which is one of the fastest growing sports in Special Olympics across the country, will be the focus of the new NFL-Special Olympics partnership. Funding will support eleven local Special Olympics Programs in Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Colorado, Northern California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Texas, Washington and Virginia. The grants will enhance Unified Sports programming, increase participation of athletes, partners and coaches and support Special Olympics Unified Sports’ online education and training course.

“PLAY 60 is for everyone. Football brings people together and can help develop friendships regardless of differences,” said NFL Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility ANNA ISAACSON. “We are excited to work with Special Olympics and make flag football more accessible for athletes of all abilities.”

The partnership between the NFL and Special Olympics leverages the football community to promote awareness, respect and inclusion of Special Olympics athletes amongst NFL players, clubs, supporters and partners. These efforts will create new participants, coaches and fans to grow the sport of flag football within Special Olympics North America programs.

“We are thrilled to partner with the NFL in expanding flag football and unified sports programming to increase opportunities for our athletes across the United States and break down barriers on and off the field,” Chief Development Officer, Special Olympics, KELLI SEELY. “There are nearly 5,000 athletes, Unified partners and coaches currently participating in flag football today and we stand ready to grow this exciting sport through our partnership with the NFL. Sport is transformational and seeing so many communities across our country experience true inclusion through this partnership is game changing.”

The partnership builds on a longstanding relationship between the NFL and Special Olympics. NFL teams have supported Special Olympics in a variety of ways, including hosting youth football clinics and competitions.

About The NFL Foundation

The National Football League Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those touched by the game of football – from players at all levels to communities across the country. The NFL Foundation represents the 32 NFL clubs and supports the health, safety and wellness of athletes, youth football, and the communities that support our game. For more information on The NFL Foundation, visit: www.NFLFoundation.org.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 169 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by many individuals, foundations and partners. To see a full list of partners click here. Engage with us on: Twitter@specialolympics, fb.com/specialolympics, youtube.com/specialolympicshq, Instagram.com/specialolympics and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.


Christy Weir, Special Olympics

Ana Blinder, NFL