World champion flag football player Diana Flores calls out pay gap

They have day jobs. They take care of their children. Then they go to the fields at night to train for their country as dedicated athletes.

This is how Diana Flores — Mexico’s world champion flag football quarterback and an NFL ambassador for the sport — describes some of her teammates.

In 2022, Flores, 25, threw four touchdowns to lead Mexico over the U.S. national team in an impressive 39-6 gold medal victory at the World Games.

Their success on the field proves that women deserve to get paid like male athletes, she said.

“My sport is not professional. I’ve been playing for the past 10 years representing my country and not getting anything,” Flores told NBC News in a video interview. “It’s the same for me and my teammates.”

And while Mexico’s top flag football player believes that becoming a world champion in her sport can inspire other female athletes to break gender barriers, the pay gap is still significant.

“A female player here in Mexico has to work 10 hours to earn what a male player earns in one hour. That’s the situation we are in right now; at least what I know for soccer in our country,” she said as an example.

Senate committees in Mexico last week backed legislation that would mandate fairer pay for women in sports.

According to the draft of the bill, male soccer players at the top level of the Mexican league earn 643,000 pesos, or approximately $37,185.47 a month — compared to female counterparts who average only 3,700 pesos, or $216 per month.

A female first — and proud of her heritage

Flores will be featured on PBS’ “Groundbreakers” on Tuesday with other star women athletes. The documentary looks back on 50 years of women in sports and is hosted by former No. 1 tennis champion and sports legend Billie Jean King.

Flores, who is the first Latina to be part of the national NFL flag football championship, gained wider recognition in the U.S. this year after she featured in the Super Bowl LVII commercial “Run With It.”

The spot shows the Mexican quarterback running past King in a parking lot and evading All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams — who's dressed in a parrot mascot costume — among other people chasing after Flores' yellow football flags. In the commercial Flores spoke in Spanish to the actor who played her mom, which she said in a Los Angeles Times interview was meaningful because it sent a message of unity between two cultures.

NFL flag football global ambassador (Cody Rappaport / Six West Media)
NFL flag football global ambassador (Cody Rappaport / Six West Media)

Flores' football jersey from that Super Bowl commercial is now exhibited at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first piece of memorabilia from a flag football player.

Flores moves confidently on TV and on the field. But she's mindful of her humble beginnings in the sport when she didn’t always have support as a woman.

“I started playing flag football at the age of 8 years old in Mexico City. Back then, the sport was not that popular. We didn’t have a lot of options to practice,” she said. “It was seen as a sport for men only.”

Nevertheless, Flores says that her father nurtured her love for football — he had also played in Mexico City at the high school and college levels.

Both father and daughter forged a bond as Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Flores says that she studied the moves of other quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

But outside of her childhood home, gender disparity shaped her earliest experiences as an athlete in football.

Flores recalls that the football club she started playing with had a big stadium with natural grass and lighting. But she was not allowed to play on that field, since it was reserved for the men’s team.

Instead, she trained and played on a backfield.

“It was literally a dirt field full of rocks and sometimes trash,” she said. “My coach used to ask us every day to bring a trash bag, so we could spend the first 15 minutes just cleaning the field.”

Flores keeps going back to this memory, she said, because it shows how much women have advanced in the sport.

At age 14, Flores crossed over to the U.S. to play flag football in Boston. She then continued playing mostly with older players —women and men. At age 16, she was called up to the Mexican national team.

Since then, Flores has won bronze, silver and gold medals with Mexico.

Now, she and her team have their eyes set on 2028, when flag football will debut as an Olympic event.

Flores firmly believes that if female athletes get fairer opportunities, not only will they deliver more fans to stadiums but also win more championships.

In the interim, she wants to inspire women to reach those athletic goals.

“Keep doing it for yourself, for your dreams, and for those who come after you,” she said. “Don’t stop fighting, continue moving on this path and build a legacy.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com