Kyle Hamilton wants to see NFL play games in Asia, the Olympics

Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton opened up about his Korean heritage, sharing that he wants to see the NFL play games in Asia and the Olympics one day.

American Football is a global sport: there are girls’ and women’s tackle leagues in Morocco, the Poly Bowl brings together vaunted high school players of Polynesian descent, and the IFAF Championship brings together teams from all over the world.

Still, the NFL remains primarily North American-based, although there are significant efforts to grow the sport in Europe. Londoners love watching the Jacksonville Jaguars play at Wembley, and this season, the NFL will host a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Seattle Seahawks matchup in Munich, Germany.

In his lifetime, Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton hopes to see the game grow even further. In an exclusive interview with WBAL’s Melissa Kim, Hamilton opened up about his Korean heritage, fighting against AAPI hate, and seeing the game he loves to grow in Korea.

“Maybe, in Korea one day, I think that’s part of the game that can be improved upon a lot, just growing in Asia,” Hamilton said.

“Hopefully one day, before I die, I want to see football in the Olympics,” he continued. “That’s a goal for me.”

Ravens rookie safety Kyle Hamilton wants to see the NFL in Asia, the Olympics

Hamilton, who is considered to be the “steal of the NFL Draft”, is one of three active Korean-American NFL players, joining Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo.

“Hopefully, my influence off the field [in donating to Stop AAPI Hate] has resonated with them as well, and they know the person behind the helmet, behind the facemask, ”Hamilton said of the next generation of Asian-American footballers.

Although the NFL doesn’t have Asian-based games on its schedule, perhaps it should – because American football has been played in Korea for over 70 years.

The Korean American Football Association (KAFA) has two primary divisions: university teams, and senior teams in the Korean National Football League (KNFL). Like college football, KAFA teams host bowl games, but unlike in the United States, the collegiate champions play the KNFL champions in a Super Bowl-like matchup. The collegiate teams play in the Tiger Bowl; the KNFL teams play in the Gwanggaeto Bowl; the collegiate champion and KNFL champion face off in the Kimchi Bowl. One dominant KNFL team is the Seoul Vikings, the two-time Kimchi Bowl champions and the seven-time Gwangaeto Bowl champions. On the university side, the DongEui University Turtle Fighters are frequent victors, winning the Kimchi Bowl in 2016 and 2017.

The Kimchi Bowl is Korea’s equivalent to Japan’s Rice Bowl, the championship game between the professional-level X-League champion and the Japanese collegiate champion. Although American football is not as established as Nippon Professional Baseball, perhaps the NFL could recruit players from Korea and Japan. If Ichiro, Shohei Ohtani, and now Seiya Suzuki have proven anything, it’s that American professional sports leagues should look to Japanese ones to recruit the best of the best.

As far as bringing football to the Olympics, that’s something that Hamilton might see in Los Angeles in 2028. Team USA flag football is competing at the World Games this July in Birmingham, Alabama, and the NFL is already a premier partner of the Games as the flag football sponsor. Representation at the World Games could make a case to add flag football to future Olympic Games. And if flag football does reach the Olympics, perhaps Jona Xiao, the Chinese-American quarterback for the Los Angeles-based She-Unit, could make history leading the first Olympic women’s flag football team. After all, Xiao already made Team USA’s 2020 prelim roster.

Hamilton is paving the way for the next generation of Asian-American athletes, amplifying AAPI voices here and looking to connect the NFL with football fans in Korea. Although he has yet to play in his first NFL game, Hamilton is already a Ravens star whose passion for the game shines on and off the field.

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