The Arizona Cardinals are embracing Arizona’s large Hispanic and Latino communities, as well as courting new fans south of the border.
ABC15 caught up with former Cardinal Rolando Cantú, who said the whole effort is about representation and inclusion.
Cantú is a part of Cardinals and NFL history.
On Oct. 2, 2005, the Cardinals were playing in Mexico City and Cantú was on the roster. He was the first Mexican-born and Mexican college-trained non-kicker to play in the NFL.
“It was a game that I will always cherish, and something that changed my life, for sure,” Cantú said as he reminisced about that period.
The NFL was working to increase the game’s popularity around the world and the significance of that moment has never been lost on Cantú.
He was born in México and split his youth between México and Texas, but he always played American football. It was something popular on both sides of the Rio Grande.
Cantú said, “Every time I go back and kind of get in front of a group of kids who play football, and their dream is also to make it to pro I mean it just pumps me up.”
Now he works for the Arizona Cardinals in a different way. He’s now the manager for the organization’s International Business Ventures Department. He also hosts the team’s Spanish broadcast with his co-host Luis Hernandez.
The team continues to grow its Hispanic/Latino fan base with different events around the Valley.
“It's amazing because these kids, I mean, they show up with a Cardinals jersey, they show up with Cardinals gear and they want to see Big Red. They want to see the cheerleaders.”
They even held a kid’s camp in Monterrey, México, this summer when COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were briefly lifted.
“Every time we go back to México, we go back with open arms. We go back to put on these free events and it's something that's well-received,” Cantú commented.
He said the games air on Mexican television and score good ratings. The Spanish Cardinals broadcast is growing too.
“We have our Cardenales Spanish radio affiliates in México, and it starts all the way from the Pacific, from Nogales all the way down south to Guadalajara, and we cover 22 cities,” he said about the team’s popularity.
The Cardinals were supposed to play in México again in 2020, but that game was canceled because of the pandemic. There's no timetable now on when they'll go back.
According to the league, they have more than 20 million NFL fans in México alone and more than 25 million Hispanic fans in the U.S.
And when the Cardinals take on the LA Rams Monday night on ABC15, they'll have fans rooting for them on both sides of the border.