Her fans know that Diana Flores is a slippery, moving target who leaves rivals gasping and grasping at air. But it took a Super Bowl halftime ad for millions more to see why the Mexico City native is not only flag football’s biggest star, but also an emerging emblem of female empowerment.
In the two-minute commercial that aired during Super Bowl LVII, Flores, quarterback and captain of the Mexican national team, strikes up a seemingly casual chat with Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews, who suddenly snatches at one of the flags dangling from Flores’ waist. That sparks a madcap dash by the elusive Flores, replete with celebrity cameos by the likes of NFL star Jalen Ramsey and tennis great Billie Jean King.
What stands out most in the choreographed chase is Flores’ speed and agility, as she dodges parking lot guards, a guy in a bird suit and an actor playing Flores’ mother. Nothing can stop her. “To the women who move football forward, we can’t wait to see where you take this sport,” the final caption reads.
Conceived as an attempt to push flag football as an official Olympic sport in 2028, the ad is as much a nod to the NFL’s global marketing ambitions as it is to third-wave feminism. Yet Flores’ seriousness and determination shine through. If her astounding athleticism has made her a champion on the field, her natural charisma has made her a persuasive ambassador for the NFL, and an idol to Latinas across the hemisphere.
“For me it is an honor to be a Mexican, a Latina woman who represents women all over the world,” she said in an interview with The Times. “Representing our work, our discipline, our heart, I think that was a very important moment. We are rewriting the history of women in sport and I feel very honored and blessed to be where I am today.”
Although many Mexicans have been surprised that the diminutive 25-year-old could dominate a sport generally ruled by behemoths, Flores credits her success to the confidence her parents instilled in her. She was told from a very young age that she was capable of achieving anything. Her father, Jaime, who played football in college, told her, “It doesn’t matter that football is not yet known in Mexico. Keep practicing and don’t listen to the detractors.”
“My father used to tell me, ‘You’re powerful,’ and that’s something I grew up with,” Flores said. “It is important to remember the power of words, and the impact they have on our boys and girls for the next generations.”
Jaime Flores, who played quarterback, running back and defense with the Águilas Blancas del Politécnico Nacional, taught his daughter the importance of knowing how to handle different positions. He wanted Diana to learn the game by emphasizing the positive, rather than the punitive way in which he’d been taught when he was young.
“I don’t know if it’s just us or our culture, but you always see the bad side rather than the good side, the side of ‘You were wrong, it’s not done like that, I’m going to teach you,’” Jaime said. “With my daughter I always focused on the successes. She probably had, like, three things that she didn’t do well, but another five that she did, and I congratulated her on those successes.”
Ever since she was little, Flores adored team sports, which is why she ended up abandoning her first loves, ballet and dance, which her parents signed her up for, along with piano, gymnastics and karate classes. She then found her true calling.
“The flag caught her and she didn’t let go. It is her passion, it is her life,” Jaime said.
By age 10, Diana was competing mostly with older girls. When she reached her teens, her skills were so advanced that she would travel abroad to play matches. In 2012, at 14, she was called up to the North Penn High School team in Pennsylvania, which she captained to a regional championship organized by the NFL.
At 16, she was called up for the first time by the Mexican team, to play in the 2014 World Cup in Grosseto, Italy, where she was the youngest player to compete in the tournament. To date, she has participated in four World Cups and has won a bronze, a silver and a gold medal, most recently when Mexico defeated the U.S. by a lopsided score of 39-6 last year in Birmingham, Ala. Flores completed 20 of 28 passes for 210 yards and four touchdowns.
Last fall, her exploits went viral during the college flag football championships in Mexico. It was the third championship won by the Borregos of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, where Flores graduated with a degree in marketing and communication.
Pride already was overflowing in the Flores family home when its members first saw the Super Bowl promo, tears streaming down the faces of Flores’ mother, Josefina, and her younger sister, Monserrat.
“We have worked a lot since she was very little. I never imagined this at this level; I never dreamed of it,” Josefina said.
Flores said two of her favorite parts of the bilingual ad were when King “accidentally” opens her car door smack in the path of one of Flores’ pursuers, and the part where Flores speaks in Spanish to the actor portraying her mother. Flores said that moment “filled my heart a lot” because it sends a message about the unity of two cultures.
Flores’ next dream is to represent her country at the 2028 Olympics.
“It’s going to be in Los Angeles, where we have a huge Latino community,” Flores said. But first, flag football will have to be accepted as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee.
Flag football recently was approved as a high school sport for the 2023-24 season by the California Interscholastic Federation, in an attempt to get more girls participating. In 2018-19, about 11,000 girls played flag football, according to the National Federation of State High School Assns. With the sport approved for CIF competition, those numbers are likely to grow.
To advance her career goals, Flores has teamed up with SMAC Entertainment, a Marina Del Rey-based talent, music, brand and production management company that has worked with talents such as football’s Deion Sanders and WWE stars Brie and Nikki Bella.
“My parents were born in Mexico; I am a first-generation American. Having a Latina was very important to me,” said José Díaz, her representative at SMAC. “But most importantly, what attracted us to having her as part of our roster is that she will continue the pattern of our clients. Our talents don’t like to stay in one aspect, they don’t want to be just athletes, just actors or just musicians, they all have different interests, they’re breaking down barriers. And that’s what Diana is doing.”
And, Flores hopes, it’s what other women can do by following her example.
“I want to remind all the girls and women that you are powerful. You are strong. You are smart,” Flores said. “You are capable of doing everything you set your mind to.”