The league will have teams in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Kansas City, Missouri, and be aided by the NFL and a Bob Woodruff Foundation Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community grant. Disabled Sports USA is a charitable organization that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities through participation in sports.
“We believe that sport has the unique power to bring people together and to push them beyond what is possible, redefining their ability,” said Glenn Merry, Disabled Sports USA executive director. “We are excited to launch the Wheelchair Football League in cadence with the NFL Draft driving a new generation of aspiring athletes to reimagine this ability.”
As part of the league’s launch, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Brad Lang will represent Disabled Sports USA and announce a draft pick for the Carolina Panthers on Saturday, April 25. Lang, a Purple Heart recipient, was severely injured during a tour of duty in Afghanistan, losing both of his legs to an improvised explosive device in 2011. Lang will be part of the new league.
“As we look forward to brighter days ahead, we at the Bob Woodruff Foundation are excited to work with DSUSA and our NFL partners to develop this groundbreaking league and help bring wheelchair football to veterans across the country,” said Anne Marie Dougherty, CEO of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. “With this NFL-BWF grant, DSUSA will develop the framework and necessary elements of the sport that DSUSA chapters and other adaptive sports programs can use to ensure wheelchair football is available to anyone who wants to play America’s game.”
Another participant in the inaugural league will be former U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Bart Salgado, who helped organize the Blister Bowl, a wheelchair football tournament in the early 2000s. Salgado will serve as head coach for the Angel City wheelchair football team in Los Angeles.
“Being active and finding an outlet in sports not only helped me heal physically but mentally, too,” Salgado said. “It’s impacted my life in more ways than one and inspired me to chase my dreams. I’m grateful to have a hand in starting this league and I can’t wait to see it highlighted during the NFL Draft.”