The Arizona Cardinals have cultivated a large Hispanic American fanbase since moving out West in 1988, after being one of the foundational Midwestern NFL teams for nearly 70 years.
Thursday was the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, a month which celebrates the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to the history and culture of the country. The month which we celebrate used to be a week. Hispanic Week was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 after it was proposed by legislation by Representative Edward R. Royball. The week was expanded to a month 20 years later in 1988.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a big part of the Arizona Cardinals franchise. Since the franchise’s move to the state of Arizona in 1988, it has cultivated a large Hispanic fanbase out West. The popularity of the NFL has expanded greatly in the Hispanic American community over the last few decades thanks to efforts to increase its geographic visibility, and the Cardinals have certainly been a part of that story.
Midwest → West
For most of their history, the Cardinals haven’t been a Western team. Indeed, a majority of that history has been spent in the Midwest, between St. Louis, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, my story as a Cardinals fan begins there, where a fanbase exists from the memories of that long stay. The history of the team is geographically dispersed, and this makes its fanbase among the most diverse in the NFL.
These days in the United States, the country is dealing with a large degree of public racial animus. Racial animosity isn’t anything new, but it has again seen an increased public visibility in recent years because of the way elected officials have used it as a means of drawing a wedge between citizens. As someone who has a platform that writes about and promotes the Arizona Cardinals, I see it as part of my responsibility to showcase all that’s great about the team.
NFL In Mexico
That goes beyond what happens on the field and deep into the nitty-gritty of America’s football culture. Football is a great sport because it represents a uniquely American catharsis. This country is a melting pot of different racial backgrounds, including Hispanic Americans, and the NFL itself has done a poor job of reflecting its wide-ranging fanbase, including recently in cringe fashion. The Cardinals themselves have tried to do a better job.
On October 2, 2005, the Cardinals played a game in Mexico City. This was the first ever NFL game held in Mexico. Offensive tackle Roland Cantú suited up for his first and only NFL game that night for the team in a win against the San Francisco 49ers. He was the first ever player in the league to come up through the Mexican collegiate football system. But his work with the team and with the league promotion across the border wasn’t finished.
Expanding In Mexico
These days, Cantú works both as a broadcaster and a promoter for the Cardinals in Mexico. He hosts football camps in the country in hopes of developing new talent for the NFL and to spread the word about the game of American football to as many people as possible. He’s a major asset to the league and a big reason why has become more popular both in Mexico and with Hispanic Americans living in the states. But more can be done.
On November 21, 2022, the Cardinals and 49ers will once again play a game in Mexico City, in a Monday Night Football matchup at Estadio Azteca. The NFL hopes that international games in Mexico will soon be an annual occurrence. Expect Cardinals and 49ers fans to turn out in big numbers for this game, making the league’s hopes of an international future more of a likelihood. The league owes this to some of its greatest fans.
With this season’s Super Bowl also slated for Glendale, it holds the possibility for being the most widely watched game by Hispanic American NFL fans yet. It would be that much better if the Cardinals were able to find themselves as part of that Super Bowl game, being the third team in a row to play for a title in their home stadium, following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams. Whatever happens this season, the Cardinals owe a lot to their Hispanic American fanbase for helping the team settle in Arizona after bringing in a Midwestern foundation.