Women's professional football takes hold in NW Philadelphia

by Len Lear
Posted 4/4/24

Professional women’s tackle football is a relatively new phenomenon, and the Philadelphia Phantomz don't have it easy.

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Women's professional football takes hold in NW Philadelphia


At 38 years old, Latasha Richardson is an athlete whose very presence oozes power. A star player with the Philadelphia Phantomz professional women’s football team, she stands an inch over six feet tall and weighs 225 pounds of what looks like pure muscle. 

She’s also the team captain. And the first thing you notice about her is not her physical strength, but her focused determination. Professional women’s tackle football is a relatively new phenomenon – the Philadelphia team was established in just 2015  – and she and her 50 teammates don’t have it easy. While football is easily the nation’s most popular sport, and the men who play professionally can earn millions in a single season, the women now playing professionally get no such luck. 

“We struggle to find sponsors,” Richardson said in a recent interview, adding that it is sometimes hard not to envy the many opportunities available to men who play the sport. “We have to buy all our own equipment – we don’t get any financial support. They have scholarships for flag football, which is now an Olympic sport, but not for ladies' football.”

The Phantomz have filled their side of the stands during home games, but their tickets never cost more than $20. They have to make and market their own merchandise to help offset the cost of hiring the paramedic and certified trainer they’re required to have on the field. To save money, they’ll rent three 16-passenger vans to travel to away games, which are as far away as Mississippi. 

Even finding a field they can play on is a challenge. The Phantomz had been using the old playing field for the shuttered Germantown High School at Sedgley and Woolston Streets in East Mt. Airy, but conference rules now require host teams to offer shower facilities to visiting players. So they’ve been forced to take their games across the river to Camden – where they’ll be hosting their first home game on April 13.

Richardson says she’s optimistic that one day they’ll get paid. The sport is slowly growing, and their team is strong. Last year they won all five of their games. 

In the meantime, they take everything they have out onto the field - pay or no pay. Since most players have a day job and a family, their practices are limited to one Zoom call a week, one “chalk talk” meeting in person and one physical practice on Sundays, starting at 5 a.m. The players must be dressed and ready to go at 4:45 a.m., so there are no late Saturday nights.

“It's really hard on the body, and we do have lots of injuries, just like the men,” she said. “I’ve had to treat knee and ankle sprains with some ibuprofen and an ice bath, or a hot tub with some Epsom salts – and then get right back on the field.”

Richardson, who lives with her daughter, Savannah, in Wyncote and grew up in West Oak Lane, started out playing defensive end but now plays offensive tackle. As a student at Bloomsburg University and Philadelphia Community College, she ran track, and played volleyball and basketball. 

“In high school (Sterling High School in South Jersey), the basketball coach said he needed a tall person,” Richardson said. “We wound up in the Senior Conference Championship game but lost to an undefeated team. I averaged 12 points, 14 rebounds and two to three blocks per game.”

Richardson has worked as a security guard, a home health aide and for the U.S. Postal Service. She was a supervisor of a company that provides aid to people with intellectual disabilities for almost 10 years. At the moment, she is working as a SEPTA bus driver and as a personal trainer at the Yard Out Fitness Club in Germantown. 

Richardson and team owner Qiana “Star” Wright are also both defensive line coaches for the Cheltenham High School boys' football team.  

The Phantomz' games are played in April, May and June. The team is now a member of the Women's National Football Conference (WNFC), which was founded in November, 2018. The Women's Football Alliance (WFA) is another full-contact women's American football league that began play in 2009.

For more information or to see videos of the Phantomz playing, visit phantomzprofootball.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com.