Game On: New women's tackle football team set to kickoff in 2025

Mon. June 10, 2024 7:46 PM by Ross Forman

Chicago Winds joins 16-team Women’s National Football Conference

A new era in Chicago women’s tackle football will take the field in 2025, built off the foundation of the local legacy that featured a national championship team in 2013.

The Chicago Winds are the first expansion team since 2022 to the Women’s National Football Conference (WNFC), whose mission is to accelerate equity for women and girls through the power of football.

The franchise is owned by Chicago entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of The Clean Junkie, Angelique M. Smith – who played five seasons at defensive end for the Chicago Force. During her rookie season, 2013, the Force won the national championship of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) and were celebrated with a declaration by the State of Illinois and honored by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“I am incredibly excited about the new Chicago Winds,” Smith said. “I wake up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas I have dreamed of. This team represents a fresh start and an exciting opportunity to bring high-level women’s tackle football back to Chicago. The Winds are built on passion, inclusivity and a commitment to excellence. We are dedicated to creating a supportive and empowering environment for our players, staff and fans. With a focus on community engagement and diversity, the Winds are set to become a solid and vibrant part of Chicago’s sports culture. I can’t wait to see what we achieve together.”

The Winds have been howling since the Force folded after the 2017 season, ending their 15-year run. “That end was bittersweet, but ignited a fire inside me as plans and strategies were developed last summer,” Smith said.

The WNFC is in its fifth season, with 16 teams across the U.S., with players representing 20-plus countries. The WNFC combines football and entertainment with a commitment to equity, inclusion and social responsibility – with teams in such cities as San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Houston, Denver, Atlanta and elsewhere.

The league has sponsorship agreements with adidas, Riddell, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and others. The WNFC’s 5th-annual IX CUP Championship weekend will be June 21-23 in Frisco, Texas.

“The WNFC was born of one woman’s determination and has been preserved and expanded through the WNFC network of franchises led and powered by many more women leaders I am very proud to walk alongside,” Smith said. “Our mission is aligned with WNFC: To accelerate equity for women and girls through the power of football.

“I am excited and proud to be the visionary leader of the WNFC’s newest franchise in Chicago, a franchise with a historic milestone as the first-ever professional sports team in the city, majority-owned by Black women. This achievement represents breaking barriers in both gender and racial representation within the sports industry, marking a significant milestone in the pursuit of diversity and inclusion in sports ownership. It’s a groundbreaking accomplishment that highlights representation’s importance and inspires others. I strive to redefine excellence, equity and empowerment in women’s football. The city of Chicago has a rich sports history and I want to contribute to that legacy. In Chicago, we’ve found more than a location; we’ve seen a home that resonates with the essence of our team’s philosophy – tough, united and always ready to rise to the challenge.”

The Winds will come to life with meaningful colors, she said: deeper blue and sky blue with neon yellow accents, reflecting Chicago's dynamic energy and vibrant spirit. “The navy and sky blue represent the deep roots and boundless sky of possibilities,” she said. “At the same time, the neon yellow adds energy and optimism, embodying the bright future we envision for women's football in our city. We aim to build a legacy that excels in the field, inspiring and empowering women and girls in Chicago.

“The Chicago Winds are here to soar, lead and make history, and we can't wait to see our city rally behind this incredible journey.”

Smith said the team’s nickname pays homage to Chicago’s nickname as the Windy City. “The Winds represent our city and the team’s unstoppable force and relentless drive,” she said. “Our logo, featuring the distinctive Chicago skyline, symbolizes the strength and resilience of our community, towering high and proud against any challenge.”

Smith, 41, has lived on the Near West Side for more than seven years. She is openly gay and knows the Winds will strike a favorable side with the LGBTQ+ community.

“We plan to celebrate the LGBT+ community with Pride Night home games and partner with LGBT establishments, such as Whiskey Girl Tavern, one of the first neighborhood bars in Edgewater that cater to the LGBTQ+ community and women’s sports to celebrate diversity and promote acceptance,” Smith said. “The team will engage with local LGBT organizations, such as Brave Space Alliance and participate in community events with (the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association) to show support to our community. We aim to create a welcoming and supportive environment at our games where everyone feels valued and included. Our efforts will be ongoing to ensure the LGBT community knows it is an integral part of the Winds family.

“The team - players, staff and volunteers – will undoubtedly include members of the LGBT community. We embrace diversity and are committed to fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected and valued. This dedication to inclusivity is fundamental to who we are as an organization.”

Smith added: “Fans attending Winds games can expect an exciting and immersive experience. The atmosphere will be electric, with enthusiastic crowds and high-energy performances on the field. There will be plenty of pre-game and halftime entertainment options, including female guest DJs and interactive fan zones. We plan to partner with local restaurants and food trucks that offer various food and beverage options, ensuring there's something for everyone. Our partners and season ticket holders will get the VIP treatment with premium seating and discounts at the merchandise booth.”

The team has not yet finalized its home stadium, nor has it named a head coach.

The Winds, like other WNFC teams, will have a flag and tackle team. “We want to give the opportunity to as many amazing female athletes as we can, so the roster will include approximately 50-plus athletes,” Smith said.

The Winds will play six regular season games – three home and three away.

Smith has retired from playing and is now motivated to inspire off-the-field.

“Playing for the Force has been instrumental in preparing me for the Winds, and my time with the Force has taught me the importance of teamwork, discipline and perseverance,” Smith said. “I gained invaluable experience on and off the field, learning the nuances of high-level competition and what it takes to build a successful team. This experience also has given me insights into effective leadership and the significance of fostering a positive team culture. All these lessons and experiences have equipped me to help lead the Winds with confidence and a clear vision for success.”

Smith confirmed that several aspects of the Force will return to life with the Winds. “We plan to carry forward the strong traditions of excellence, teamwork and community engagement that define the Force,” she said.

Former Force players and staff will join the Winds, “bringing their experience and passion to our new team,” she added. “We are committed to honoring the legacy of the Force while building a fresh and dynamic future with the Winds. This blend of tradition and innovation will help us create a strong foundation and a bright future.”

Smith added: “We are thrilled about the prospect of having high-level women's tackle football in Chicago. It’s an exciting opportunity to showcase female athletes' incredible talent and dedication in our city. Bringing back this level of competition enriches our sports culture and provides a platform for empowering women in sports. We believe it will inspire new generations of athletes and fans, fostering a strong community spirit and pride in our team.

“The Winds will play a pivotal role in inspiring and empowering the future generation of girls. By providing strong female role models on the field, we can show young girls that they too can excel in sports and achieve their dreams. We started a non-profit called EmpowerHER Chicago, and through community outreach programs and partnerships with the Chicago Bears, Chicago Public Schools’ athletic programs, and non-profits such as Girls in the Game, youth clinics, mentorship programs in sports management and school visits, we aim to encourage girls to participate in sports and develop their skills, on and off the field.  We also plan to create a competitive girls’ flag team/program to compete nationally. Lastly, by promoting values like teamwork, perseverance and confidence, the Winds can help instill these essential qualities in young athletes. We aim to create a supportive and inclusive environment where girls feel motivated and capable of pursuing their passions in sports and life.”

  • For more about the Chicago Winds, including partner and sponsorship opportunities, contact the team at