Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article about how flag football, lacrosse, cheerleading, and cricket teams across the country are pushing to have their sport represented in the upcoming 2028 Summer Olympics.
While these sports aren’t as popular or well-known as baseball, basketball, soccer, or football, they do still have a sizable following here in the United States. Cricket is played in many countries worldwide and has much interest here due to our multicultural heritage. So does lacrosse with many youths playing in their local leagues, and all these sports have national organizations.
Cheerleading is a little different. Few countries have cheerleaders for their teams, so this might be a more difficult effort. Most people think of little ones with pom poms at pee wee events and pro football teams’ dance squads. But at the collegiate level, it is a whole new ballgame. Most are gymnasts and they are becoming prominent as “flyers.” It is a dangerous sport. Lightweight athletes are hurled 30 or more feet in the air for stunts. If they are not caught on landing or fall incorrectly, the injuries can be severe. There are all multiple reports of paralyzed cheerleaders.
Flag football has a good chance of becoming an Olympic sport. It has gained immense popularity in many countries. It does not bear the injury risks of American football. Recently I spoke with Jacob Hiatt who is the head coach of the Everett Elite 14U flag football team. Hiatts team who recently competed at the flag football nationals in Los Angeles in February had a lot to say about this recent development. “I think flag football should definitely be represented in the Olympics, it is such a wonderful and competitive sport to play and watch,” said Hiatt. Flag football is often viewed as a children’s’ sport, however the sport has many divisions for players in their early to late teens. “I think the first step to have flag football in the Olympics is to start having world games, like how basketball does in their FIBA tournaments. That way young players can get more accustomed to playing on a larger stage.”
As opposed to tackle football that is only played in the United States and Canada, flag football reaches a wider audience across the globe. Central and South America are heavily invested in the sport, with the 2018 IFAF Flag Football World Championship being held in Panama City. Israel is also slowly growing interest in the sport, with many other countries growing in popularity as well. Hiatt also believes that flag football would be more likely accepted as an Olympic sport due to its rules. “Tackle football has a lot of risk and danger associated with it; you have guys permanently damaging their bodies in this game. Whereas in flag there is none of that, just athletes running and competing at the highest levels.”
While the 2028 Summer Olympics are years away, the movement to have these sports represented is growing increasingly. Local support and interest are also growing. Here is a link to IOC’s officially recognized sports, IOC Recognized Sports