“You don’t just show up and become a great football team,” says Rich Daniel, current owner of the DC Divas. “That takes time, respect, and recognition.” But we aren’t talking powderpuff sports; the Divas are a full-contact professional football team in the National Women’s Football Association (NWFA). After the Minnesota Vixen and the New York Sharks, the Divas are the third-longest running franchise in women’s football history. Over their 18 seasons, the Divas have compiled a 133-43 record, making them the winningest team in the history of women’s football.
With their helmets, pads, and fierce attitudes, they’ve been competing in the Washington, D.C. area since their founding in 2000. In that time, they have established themselves as one of the top teams in women’s football. They have a long history with rivalries lasting many years, but in 2019, the team is getting a fresh start. The retiring of some key players, including running back Kenyetta Grigsby and quarterback Allyson Hamlin, has meant that the team needed to recruit fresh blood for the new season.
The Divas are comprised of a diverse group of women — professionals, mothers, partners both with and without children of all races and sexual orientations. They work and play together, using their passion for the game to push them to be better than they were the day before.
“You don’t just give your time as a Diva,” says Quiana Ford, defensive back and player since 2015, “You give your heart.” She and the other Divas volunteer in various communities.
The Divas take Christmas cards to patients in the extended stay ward of local hospitals and visit children in their classrooms. They host careers days and arrange for meet-and-greets. Wide receiver Lois Cook is the Diva’s Director of Community Relations, and she arranges many of these activities. She keeps up the Divas’ charity-oriented involvement. “My favorite is when we sing Christmas carols to the kids,” says Ford.
The Divas persevere through many hardships for the sake of the game. They miss out on time with their families for practices and games, and sometimes experience injuries. And yet, through the sacrifices, they also have much to celebrate.
Offensive linebacker Missy Bedwell is a 21-year veteran of professional women’s football, and has been playing with the Divas since 2010. She picked up her fiancée, Alina Markl who also plays for the Divas, from the airport on May 3. They went to practice as normal, and then brought a small group of friends and family together—not for a game, but for their wedding.
“Now how many other teams will you see that on?” Daniel asks. “For us, it isn’t about how we’re different—race and gender and sexuality don’t matter when you’re a human being sharing a passion for the game and the competition.”