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Meet the Detroit Pride, the new full-tackle women's football team in Detroit

Kate Wells

Right now it's baseball season, and hockey and basketball playoffs are underway.

It's also women's football season.

First of all, yes, if you didn't already know – women's football is at thing.

There’s the Legends Football League, aka the Lingerie Football League. Which is exactly what it sounds like: helmets, cleats, shoulder pads … and push-up bras and bikini bottoms.

Then, on the fully-clothed front, there appear to be two main leagues.

There’s the Women's Football Alliance, which includes the West Michigan Mayhem and the Detroit Dark Angels. The WFA puts out affirming promo videos:


And then there's the Independent Women's Football League,which is now home to the brand-new Detroit Pride.

At a recent evening practice, team members trickled in after work and school, stretching, putting on full pads, taking a couple laps around the field.

Jayla Brown is 18. She started out wanting to play wide receiver, but says her coach has her playing more at tight end.

Credit Kate Wells
Detroit pride players practice blocking.

  "I like hitting though. Like, I have all sisters and we're always wrestling at home and stuff together. 'Cause my parents are like, stop fighting with your sisters! Now I can do it, and don't nobody yell at me for doing it no more," she laughs.  

As you can guess, Brown, like a lot of the other women on this team, grew up wanting to play football.

"My daddy had me while he was in high school. And so he took me to all of his games with him. So and then he played semi-pro for the Saints semi-pro team. And so we always watching. I was like, I want to play too! And so when I heard about this I asked him, and he said yeah."

A Detroit Pride player makes the catch

Quarterback Danetta Jameson, aka DJ, just graduated from the University of Michigan. She heard about Detroit Pride when her mom saw it on TV, freaked out, videotaped it, and sent it to her.

"She know I love football, and I've been waiting to play full-contact 'cause I'm very physical. So I kinda don't like flag football."

Since January, the team’s been practicing four days a week – rain, snow, whatever.

But injuries have been an issue, says Jameson:

Credit Kate Wells
Detroit pride players practice on the 20 yard line

"We actually had two people recently, they broke their ankles. We haven't even had our first game and we're losing people already."

And of course, nobody here has played full-tackle football before. Unlike men, these women never had the chance to play pee-wee, high school, or college football. So getting adults to the level of play that fans expect for a football game takes a lot of time.

You're not just learning the play book. You're learning how to block.

"That's the biggest challenge is that, you know you have some that have no experience," says head coach Trey Craig. "You have some that played backyard ball. And you have some women that are just, you know, just natural athletes. It's more or less just explaining the concepts of things."

The Detroit Pride has its first game Saturday against the Toledo Reign at home. The owners say they've already sold 100 tickets.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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