Charlene Casey
Charlene Casey, a member of the Boston Renegades, will be featured in an ESPN documentary about the women's semipro team. ©Mitzi Velez Lorenzana

‘It doesn’t have to be a men’s sport’: Taunton women featured in ESPN football documentary (Taunton Gazette)

June 29, 2020

Steve Sanchez | Taunton Gazette

June 29, 2020

TAUNTON — For years, tackle football has generally been a man’s sport. Don’t tell that to Taunton residents Charlene Casey and Erin Diette.

“Football is a team sport and it doesn’t have to be a men’s sport,” Casey said. “It is the ultimate team sport. I hope that this will bring our world into the rest of world and see how important this is to all of us.”

The Silver City duo will appear on an ESPN documentary called “Born to Play” on July 1, beginning at 9 p.m. The show will air the 2018 season of Casey and Diette’s Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) semi-professional national champion team — the Boston Renegades.

“It’s amazing that the team put this [documentary] together for us and was able to push it to this level,” Diette said. “To have our efforts broadcast to a larger audience that may have never heard of women’s football otherwise, we are very thankful that ESPN will be playing this in prime time.”

The Boston Renegades, which is comprised of nearly 50 members, are the premier women’s tackle football team in New England.

The defending WFA champions won back-to-back national titles in 2018 and 2019. The Renegades are continuing the rich history of women’s football in Boston, which includes five national titles.

Some of the players come from former teams which include the Boston Militia, New England Intensity, Bay State Warriors, Boston Rampage, and Massachusetts Mutiny.

The Renegades, which have of some of the best athletes in New England and the world, came into existence in 2015 under the leadership of former players Molly Goodwin, Mia Brickhouse, and Erin Baumgartner.

“Every year we add new women to the team, building up the potential for years to come to show the pride in Boston sports,” Diette said. “[Each] year, this family pulls together to make our team the best and to get back to the big game.”

Unfortunately because of the coronavirus, the Renegades can’t make attempt to be a three-time consecutive champion. Their year was canceled on May 2.

“We play in the spring/fall. We were practicing at Forekicks [facility] in Taunton in early March and just before we were to start practicing outside, we had to stop,” Casey said. “We were hoping to be the first Women’s Tackle football team to win a three-peat [in the WFA].”

Casey, 51, has lived in Taunton since 1992. She said what got her into tackle football was when playing rugby in college. Originally, she played volleyball and basketball at Bridgewater State University. Casey, who grew up in Lawrence, has played 20 seasons of tackle football and starts at middle linebacker.

“I always joke that [rugby] was one of my gateway sports,” she said. “I was looking for a team sport to participate in after I got out of college. I saw an ad for a tryout in 2002 for the Massachusetts Mutiny and decided that it might be a great idea to tryout. After that I was hooked.”

Diette, 34, states she did not play sports during college except maybe pickup games with friends. But she was very excited when interacting with a group of women that introduced her to women’s football.

Diette, who grew up in Vernon, Connecticut, has lived in Taunton since 2013. She currently plays defensive end for the Renegades but helped out on offense at the guard position in 2018.

“I got to watch my brother play during high school and I love being able to prove I can do anything he could do,” Diette said.

Diette, left, and Casey hold up the national championship trophy.

Both Casey and Diette said their proudest moments was winning back-to-back national titles.

“I am hoping that the sporting world sees this and sees us as the athletes that we are,” Casey said.

“It may encourage women all over the country to look for a team in their area that they can play for in future years, and give little girls everywhere empowerment to know they can do anything they set their minds to,” Diette said. “Even play a sport that has always been viewed as just a ‘man’s game.'”

Off the field, the Renegades players are educators, entrepreneurs, athletic trainers, public safety officers, business owners and more.

The Boston Renegades are currently owned by Goodwin as well as operated in partnership with local business professional and dedicated fan Michelle McDonough. The Renegades play at Harry della Russo Stadium in Revere.

“Nothing can be more special than the fact that we are a women’s tackle football team in a world full of men’s teams,” Casey said.