Africa’s Influence on the NFL

Africa’s influence can be seen across the globe. Many of the top actors and musicians who are known around the world have strong links to the Continent. The Continent has also given us many things, like coffee, modern mathematics, jazz music, and many of the raw materials we need for electronic devices like mobile phones. 

Meanwhile, athletes from African nations dominate in sporting events and athletic competitions. Most major leagues in the US have a strong cohort of players who were either born in an African country, or have strong African heritage.

Africans in the NFL

One of these leagues is the NFL, which currently has 22 African born players in its teams, many playing for some of the league’s top sides. However, none were on the rosters during this year’s Super Bowl, which was won by the Kansas City Chiefs

These 22 players come from nine different countries, including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Ghana. Several of these are currently free agents, but others are contracted to teams, including the Seattle Seahawks’ Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions’ Steve Longa, and the Jackson Jaguars’ Leon Jacobs. 

This is despite American football having little to no presence on the Continent. While there is a governing body for the sport, there are no significant leagues to speak of. Instead, the most popular sports include association football and basketball. 

A Long History

There is a long history of native-born Africans playing in the NFL. The first appearance of a player born on the continent was Howard Simon Mwikuta, who took part in a Dallas Cowboys preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.

Before then though, Wilkie Osgood, who was born in the Congo Free State, was a wingback for the Columbus Panhandles in 1920, one year before the NFL was formed. 

Helping to Promote the NFL on the Continent

The NFL has a strategy to grow its popularity outside of the US as it endures slowing growth in its domestic market. It has been doing this by playing exhibition games abroad, including regular games in the UK. In certain African countries, the local players have helped to increase its popularity. For example, over 8% of South Africans identify as NFL fans, thanks to players like Gary Anderson and Greg Joseph. 

Access to NFL games is much easier for fans in Africa now thanks to the NFL Game Pass, a streaming service that broadcasts all NFL games live and provides on-demand catch up services and historic games.