Why are players, coaches wearing decals of different flags in the NFL this week?


For the first time in NFL history, players, coaches and executives alike were invited to wear a decal of a different country or territory’s flag to “celebrate the growing number of nationalities and cultures that make up the fabric of the League.”

This initiative -- set to run through Weeks 4 and 5 -- is part of a bigger league-wide movement to expand the game’s influence to other corners of the globe. Despite reigning supreme in the U.S., American football is largely an afterthought throughout much of the world. 

This two-week stretch also includes a series of games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. 

Here’s a look at who is participating and what flags might be represented.

How many players and coaches are wearing patches and stickers with the flags of different countries or territories?

The NFL has 205 players who will be sporting non-U.S. decals on their helmets these next two weeks, according to nflcommunications.com. 

Headlining this group is Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray who opted to add the South Korean flag, in honor of his mom, Missy, who is half-Korean. 

Bears wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown is very open about his German heritage, even employing his tri-fluency in his 2015 commitment to Notre Dame. He and brother Amon-Ra of the Detroit Lions will both participate in the league’s initiatives by representing their mom’s home country. 

Chase Claypool, affectionately dubbed the “Mapletron” by the Pittsburgh Steelers fanbase, is one the premier internationally born NFL players. He’ll be one of 14 players representing Canada. 

Meanwhile, 20 executives and coaches will participate in the league’s efforts. This includes Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos representing their respective family histories -- Croatia and Greece.

How did players decide which flags to represent?

According to the NFL, the flags are meant to represent a player’s “nationality of cultural heritage.”

Despite having a significantly smaller share of international players than any of the other major sports leagues, the NFL still boasts a history of players with international ties. It’s not just international-born players or those with a familial cultural connection participating in the league’s initiative. 

Britain Covey of the Philadelphia Eagles has opted to don the Chilean flag, in recognition of his two years spent on a LDS mission in the South American country. Covey was signed to the Eagles 53-man roster on Saturday, appearing in all four games this season, primarily as a returner. 

How many countries are represented by the NFL’s international diversity initiative?

A total of 54 countries and territories will be represented throughout Weeks 4 and 5 in the NFL. 

Which country or territory flag has the most representatives? 

The honor for most selections belongs to Nigeria, and it’s not particularly close. 

The green and white flag of Nigeria will be sported by 56 players, more than a quarter of the total list.  

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