Latinos and the NFL – Kicking the Chicharrón (Pigskin) since 1927 - Pass the FritoPie and bean and cheese nachos – it's Super Bowl Sunday! With the NFL aggressively marketing to Latinos, a fan base that is growing at rapid speed, it's no surprise that 33 million of us watched football this season. Last year, ten million of us watched Super Bowl XLV, a greater number than the 8.5 million Latino audience for the last World Cup Finals. Even the finale of the hit telenovela series Destilando Amor couldn't compete with a greater audience than Super Bowl 2011. So, we were curious, how do Latinos fit into NFL history?
American football can be traced to the late 1800s and by the 1920s an NFL team, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, was founded in a Philadelphia neighborhood. The sport was not the large business it has become today and back then the team would donate excess income to local charities. They won the 1926 NFL Championship but economic hardship of the Great Depression brought them to an end in the early 1930s. The Frankfort Yellow Jackets claim the first Latino NFL player – Ignacio Saturnino (Lou) Molinet (1904–1976), a Cuban-American, who played for them in 1927, rushed for 75 yards, passed for 35 yards and scored a touchdown. Two years later, Jess Rodriguez, (1901-1983) of Salem, West Virginia, played for the Buffalo Bisons and became the second Latino to play for an NFL team. During the 1940s Joe Aguirre of Rock Springs, Wyoming played for the Washington Redskins.
By the 1980s we had a Superstar on the field, a Mexican-American named Jim Plunkett. He is the first Latino quarterback to win a Super Bowl (XV) and did so in 1981. He is the first and only player in Football History to win all four major awards: The Heisman Trophy (1970), 1971 United Press International AFL-AFC Rookie of the Year, 1980 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and Super Bowl XV MVP. He is the Rita Moreno of the NFL!
The first Latino coach to win a Super Bowl was Thomas "Tom" Flores of Fresno, California, born to Mexican-American parents. Flores and Mike Ditka are the only two people in National Football League history to win a Super Bowl as a player, as an assistant coach, and as a head coach. Flores is not the first Hispanic to play pro football, but he is the first Hispanic to start at quarterback for an NFL team and was first to win four Super Bowl rings. Count them: one–two-three-four. He's earned the right to be called a legend and just last year the National Council of La Raza honored his achievements.
There are other Latinos who have earned distinction as NFL players. Ted Hendricks "The Mad Stork" of Guatemala City is a four-time Super Bowl Champion. Again let's count: uno, dos, tres, cuatro Super Bowl rings! Efren Herrera of Jalisco, Mexico kicked for the Dallas Cowboys during their 1978 Super Bowl XII Championship. Raul Allegre of Torreón, Mexico is a Super Bowl XXI Champion having played for the New York Giants. Martin Gramatica is a 2010 Super Bowl Champion having played for the New Orleans Saints. You can't turn on television without hearing about the on and off field plays of Antonio "Tony" Ramiro Rom, a superstar, Mexican-American, celebrity quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
So, who will be the Latinos on the field for Super Bowl XLVI? Victor Cruz, wide receiver of the New York Giants identifies as ½ black and ½ Puerto Rican while Aaron Hernandez claims 100% Puerto Rican. Aaron Hernandez is only 22-years old and plays tight-end (#81) for the New England Patriots. Did you catch that? Both are Puerto Rican!
Speaking of Puerto Ricans, there will be someone on the halftime entertainment field with a strong connection to the island. Yes, we know Madonna is not Latina but her daughter, Lourdes, has a Puerto Rican father, Carlos Leon. With only a handful of Latino influences on the field we admit we're stretching it.
NFL demographics reveal that an estimated 31 NFL players of the current season are Latino representing 1.8% of all NFL players. As Latinos represent 15% of the U.S. population you would think there would be more Garcia, Muñoz, Rodriguez surnames on the jerseys. But they are coming and will blitz through to the NFL from high schools, colleges and are probably now tossing footballs in your back yards and barrios. Many will come from Latin America. Ask "The Mad Stork" he knows.
On Sunday a big part of the entertainment are the anticipated Super Bowl commercials selling for $3.5 million for a 30 second placement. Latinos will have a front row seat to commercials as our $1.2 trillion wallet in consumer spending power makes us VIPs – Very Important Personas. Yes, there is a disconnect between the number of Latino NFL players, our population, our audiences, and our wallets. But that's another discussion for another time. Pass the Corona, the game is starting. And, don't forget the chicharrónnes.
Written by Elaine Coronado, President, Argus-Events & Marketing, who knows more about Latinos than she knows about football. She will be watching Super Bowl XLVI with pork rinds and tequila!