You may remember her viral video from about five years ago.
Photo via SNF on NBC/Twitter.
When she was just 9 years old, Samantha (“Sam”) Gordon became a viral sports sensation thanks to a video highlight reel showing the young football player running circles around her opponents while playing on an all-boys football team.
Gordon and her father were able to parlay her fame into television appearances and even a Wheaties box cover, but it’s the slow and steady work she’s been doing since her debut that has continued to drive the discussion about equality in youth sports.
Now, five years later, Gordon has been recognized by the NFL as the recipient of its inaugural Game Changer Award during the NFL Honors ceremony on the night before Super Bowl LII.
Here’s the highlight video demonstrating Gordon’s impressive talents that captured the world’s attention.
Now she’s back in the public eye thanks to the NFL’s honor, but during the time in between, Sam and her father, Brent Gordon, have been working tirelessly to ensure that Sam and any other girl with the desire to play football can do so. In June 2017, Brent, a lawyer, filed a Title IX lawsuit against three local Salt Lake County school districts to effect change and create opportunities for the half of the student-athlete population that has been marginalized by institutional gender discrimination. The suit states that the disproportionate number of girls playing high school sports could be resolved by the addition of all-girls tackle football programs in the schools.
The lawsuit came just three years after Sam and her father created the Utah Girls Tackle Football League, a recreation club for girls interested in playing tackle football. According to the Deseret News, the league doubled in size in its second year, and its success has served as the catalyst for similar programs elsewhere in the United States and Canada.
Sam used her acceptance speech to share her motivation and struggle over the past five years, reminding viewers that girls are entitled to play any sport that boys are.
She stated to the world from the NFL stage:
“Before Title IX, some people thought that girls weren’t interested in playing sports but they were wrong. They were just as wrong as people who argued that women did not want to vote, to hold public office or to be lawyers or doctors. People who think girls don’t want to play football are wrong too.”
According to the NFL, the Game Changer Award was introduced to “celebrate those who are committed to moving the game forward.”
Sam Gordon may not be a household name (yet), but it’s clear she fits that description to a tee. Hopefully, the NFL will serve to do more than simply bestow an award upon her. The league’s assistance in Sam’s cause could create a world of difference for thousands, or even millions, of young girls who, until now, have never felt that they have a place in organized football.
The demand is there, Sam assured the audience on Saturday.
“I want to let you in on a little secret: Girls love football,” she shared. No one would know better than her.