Grupo Firme Performs at Halftime During the NFL’s Monday Night Football Game

Grupo Firme is celebrating a career touchdown

The Regional Mexican band headlined the halftime show at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City during the Monday Night Football game in which the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 38-10.

Grupo FirmeThe return of the NFL to Mexico featured a week-long celebration of pride that transcends borders, as well as the nexus between Mexican culture and American football with activities focused on art, fashion, music, and youth football.

As part of the League’s “Por la Cultura” campaign, music has been a focal point of the NFL’s marketing strategy, kicking off the season with a J Balvin concert and releasing a Por La Cultura mixtape featuring Yandel, El Alfa, and Snow Tha Product among others. Latino football fans are the fastest-growing demographic for the NFL and an important audience the league is hoping to grow in the coming years.

Grupo Firme, formed in the northern Mexican city of Tijuana, arrived at the so-called “Coloso de Santa Úrsula,” as the Estadio Azteca is also known, after a massively successful touring year, including their concert at the Zócalo of Mexico City last September that garnered an audience of 280,000, a series of presentations at Foro Sol, a major arena also located in the Mexican capital, and their main stage set at Coachella.

“This is an achievement in our career, we are going ‘at a steady pace’ as we say it. The truth is that we were not thinking to be part of an event as important as this beautiful night,” singer Eduin Caz told Billboard Español. “It will be something historic, a different audience will know us. They will listen to us and we will give our best.”

The Latin Grammy and Latin Billboard Music Awards winners performed their hits “Ya supérame”, “El amor no fue para mi” and “Gracias,” for the 78,000 NFL fans in attendance.

This was the first Monday Night Football game played in Mexico City since 2019, after a forced two-year break because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the musicians, the presence of the NFL in Mexico is a good opportunity for two communities to honor sports and music without language barriers.

“Something that we have realized and that we are very grateful for is that the public and the people who listen to Grupo Firme are increasingly bicultural. We have already seen people who do not speak Spanish singing at our concerts. It is a blessing for us that this is growing and that opens the door to be at events like this”, said singer Jhonny Caz.

Mexican singer Sofía Reyes was chosen this year to perform the national anthem of Mexico. She electrified the stadium as soon as she started singing the first verse.

“For me it is an honor to sing the Mexican national anthem and above all to sing it here in my country at an event like this. It’s crazy! I am happy and very grateful,” Reyes told Billboard Español prior to the game.

 

On the American side, the Mexican-American singer Marisol HernándezLa Marisoul”, from the musical group La Santa Cecilia, performed The Star-Spangled Banner, the United States National Anthem.

“This is my first time at the Estadio Azteca, singing the national anthem of the United States. I feel that my two worlds, my two countries, come together in a beautiful way and I can’t hide my feelings from this experience. For years at La Santa Cecilia we have tried to build musical bridges and I feel that tonight is a great example of this,” said Hernández.

The match in Mexico was the fifth and final of the 2022 International Series, which included three games in London and, for the first time, a game in Munich, Germany. Musical performances from the game at Estadio Azteca on November 21st can be viewed on Mundo NFL’s YouTube channel.

CBS to Air Kevin Alejandro’s “Fire Country” Following January’s AFC Championship Game

Kevin Alejandro will be bringing the fire this NFL season…

CBS will air a special episode of its hit drama series Fire Country, starring the 46-year-old Mexican American, in January after the eye network airs the AFC Championship game.

Kevin AlejandroThe football game is set to take place on Sunday, January 29 at 6:40 p.m. ET with the Max Thieriot-led show airing right after.

Fire Country has been a hit with viewers ranking as the No. 1 new series this season averaging 8.26 million viewers to date. The premiere of the series on October 7 gave CBS their best seven-day audience for a series in the time period since May 8, 2020. The seven-day streaming on Paramount+, CBS.com and the CBS app, meanwhile, is up 245% from Magnum P.I. last year based on average minute audience.

Due to its initial success, Fire Country, alongside East New York and So Help Me Todd have been given full season orders.

“CBS is off to a tremendous start this season,” Kelly Kahl, President, CBS Entertainment, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have the three most watched new series, each with their own unique settings, characters and storylines. These dramas are elevating our already successful lineup, resonating with diverse audiences both on-air and on streaming, and continuing to grow each week. We thank the talented casts, executive producers and their incredible writing and production teams for bringing these shows to life. Additional kudos to our CBS programming teams for shepherding these series to success. We are delighted to give them well deserved full season orders.”

Thieriot stars in Fire Country as Bode Donovan, a young convict seeking redemption and a shortened prison sentence by joining a prison release firefighting program in Northern California, where he and other inmates are partnered with elite firefighters to extinguish massive, unpredictable wildfires across the region. It’s a high-risk, high-reward assignment, and the heat is turned up when Bode is assigned to the program in his rural hometown, where he was once a golden all-American son – until his troubles began. Five years ago, Bode burned down everything in his life, leaving town with a big secret. Now he’s back, with the rap sheet of a criminal and the audacity to believe in a chance for redemption with Cal Fire.

Alejandro portrays Manny on the series.

George Lopez to Star in Snoop Dogg’s Sports Comedy “The Underdoggs” for MGM

George Lopez is embracing the underdogg status…

The 61-year-old Mexican American comedian/actor will star in MGM’s Snoop Dogg sports comedy The Underdoggs.

George LopezLopez joins a roster of cast additions that includes Tika SumpterMike Epps and Andrew Schulz.

Meanwhile, the kid team of actors added to the cast include Jonigan Booth, Adan James Carrillo, Kylah Davila, Caleb Dixon, Alexander Michael Gordon and Shamori Washington.

Billed as The Bad News Bears in the world of Youth Football, The Underdoggs tells the story of Jaycen Jenning, “2J’s” (played by Snoop Dogg), a former NFL superstar who, after a run in with the law, agrees to coach a youth football team in lieu of prison in the hopes of relaunching his fledgling career.

Charles Stone directs off a script by Danny Segal and Isaac Schamis based off a pitch by Snoop Dogg and Schwartz-Morini.

The film is produced under Snoop Dogg’s Death Row Pictures banner, with Kenya Barris and Mychelle Deschamps for Khalabo Ink Society, Snoop Dogg’s longtime producing partner Constance Schwartz-Morini of SMAC Entertainment and Jonathan Glickman for Panoramic Media.

Production is underway for an October 20, 2023 theatrical release.

Lopez is currently shooting his upcoming multi-camera comedy series Lopez vs. Lopez, featuring his real-life daughter Mayan Lopez, and is performing stand-up in arenas across the country on his OMG Hi! Comedy Tour, through October.

Lopez will join the DC Extended Universe in the upcoming superhero film Blue Beetle, releasing in-theaters August 2023.

His extensive film credits include Walking with Herb, the modern-day Western No Man’s LandThe Tax CollectorEl Chicano, the romantic comedy box-office hit Valentine’s DayThe Spy Next DoorThe Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and Spare Parts, which he also produced. Lopez has produced and starred in the series Lopez, co-created and starred in the series Saint George, hosted TBS’ inaugural late night talk show, Lopez Tonight, and co-created, wrote, produced and starred in the hit sitcom George Lopez.

Carrillo began his career at the age of nine and has shared the screen with Robert DeNiro in About My Father, appeared in David E. Kelley’s Lincoln Lawyer, as well as As We See It from creator Jason Katims, and Mayans M.C. from creator Elgin James.

Davila appeared in the pilot episode HBOMax’s Gordita Chronicles, and the short film Troop InvadersThe Underdoggs reps her first feature film role. An actor and gymnast, Davila hails from Manhattan Beach, California.

NFL Releasing First-Ever “Por La Cultura Mixtape,” Featuring Yandel Collaboration

Yandel is helping kick-off a special initiative with the National Football League

The NFL is set to release its first-ever Por La Cultura Mixtape in partnership with NEON16 that features music by the 45-year-old Puerto Rican singer and songwriter, the half member of the reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel.

Yandel, El Alfa, Will.i.AmThe mixtape, led by creative One Six and hitmaker Tainy, features Yandel’s collaboration with El Alfa and Will.i.Am, “Rómpela.”

The track is the backdrop of the “Por La Cultura” campaign kickoff spot titled “The Celebration.”

J Balvin Becomes First Latino Artist to Headline NFL Kickoff Concert

J Balvin has earned a place in NFL history…

The 37-year-old Colombian singer performed at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach, California, on Thursday, September 8 as part of the NFL Kickoff Experience to celebrate the beginning of the 2022 NFL season, becoming the first Latino artist to headline an NFL kickoff concert.

J BalvinJ Balvin performed ahead of the first game of the year, which saw the Buffalo Bills battle with reigning Super Bowl champs, the Los Angeles Rams.

Attendees defied the L.A. heat wave and made their way to the beach for a free day event that featured all sorts of activities and activations, including a beach football field.

Before Balvin took the stage, a local mariachi band serenaded the sweaty crowd before the Alabama State Marching Hornets took over for a riveting number.

Opening for Balvin was West Coast-based DJ and producer Tokimonsta, who was able to get the concertgoers out of the shade and closer to the main stage where they danced to her eclectic set.

Then, an inflatable giant hand appeared onstage holding up an equally large smiling face balloon — Balvin’s signature smiley face— which could only mean that the chart-topping artist was ready to take make his grand entrance. While his set was scheduled to begin at 4:00 pm, Balvin took the stage 10 minutes earlier to perform a nearly one-hour show.

He appeared in a two-piece, army-like outfit styled with a matching balaclava that only exposed his eyes.

“Cómo está la vibra esta tarde, how’s the vibe today?” he asked the crowd.

Balvin kicked off with the fan-favorite “Mi Gente” and went on to perform back-to-back hits like “Reggaeton,” “Nivel de Perreo,” “Con Altura,” “Loco Contigo,” “Blanco,” “Ritmo,” “Amarillo,” “Ginza,” “I Like It” and “In Da Getto.” He also brought out a special guest, Trueno, an emerging rapper from Argentina, to perform their collaboration “Un Paso.”

“My name is Jose but they call me J Balvin,” he added. “Where are all the warriors that fight for their dreams? I see my Latino gang representing here.”

Throughout the years, artists like Shawn MendesMeek MillMeghan Trainor and Ed Sheeran have performed at the NFL Kickoff Concert.

J Balvin to Headline This Year’s NFL Kickoff Concert

J Balvin is ready for the American football experience

The 37-year-old Colombian superstar will headline the 2022 NFL Kickoff Concert at the NFL Kickoff Experience ahead of the Buffalo Bills versus Los Angeles Rams game on Sept. 8.

J Balvin“I got a glimpse of the incredible NFL fandom during the Super Bowl Halftime performance in Miami in 2020,” Balvin said in a press statement. “That year we closed things out with a great game and a massive party. This season, to kick things off, we’re celebrating even harder and getting even louder.” 

The NFL Kickoff event will take place on Alamitos Beach in Long Beach. Doors to the free and open-to-the-public event will open at noon PT, and Balvin’s performance is slated for 4 p.m. PT.

The full performance will be streamed on NFL.com, the NFL app, and select NFL social media platforms. Parts of J Balvin’s performance will also be televised on NBC and NFL Network’s pregame show coverage.

Additionally, the NFL Kickoff Experience will offer the attendees interactive games, photo opportunities with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, all 56 Super Bowl rings, and more.

Registration for free tickets is required via the official website at nfl.com/2022kickoff.

The NFL Kickoff Concert will follow Balvin’s return to the 2022 VMA stage on August 28, where he will perform “Nivel de Perreo” with Colombian newcomer Ryan Castro. This will mark Balvin’s first VMA performance since his 2019 collaboration with Bad Bunny on “Qué Pretendes.”

If Balvin — who is a five-time nominee — wins, he’ll become the most-awarded Latin artist in VMA history; he’s currently tied for that distinction with Ricky Martin.

Seattle Mariners Acquire Luis Castillo in Trade with Cincinnati Reds

Luis Castillo is heading west…

The Seattle Mariners, looking to end a postseason drought that stretches to 2001, acquired the best arm on the trade market on Friday night in a deal for the 29-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher from the Cincinnati Reds.

Luis Castillo“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game — he’s really established himself as a dominant starter,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve got a chance to do something really big here this year. You have to step out and take a chance once in a while if you ultimately want to get the reward, take a little risk. Dominant starting pitcher, and I’m anxious to meet him.”

Minor leaguers Noelvi Marte, Levi Stoudt, Edwin Arroyo and Andrew Moore are headed to Cincinnati, the teams announced.

Marte, a shortstop, is the highest rated of the group, with ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranking him the 12th-best prospect in baseball ahead of the season.

“We felt this was the best return we could get for Luis,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said.

The Mariners, led by star rookie Julio Rodriguez, are 54-47, 12 games behind the first-place Houston Astros in the AL West. They are in the second of three AL wild-card spots, a half-game in front of Tampa Bay (53-47) and two games ahead of Cleveland (51-48). Seattle won its final 14 games before the MLB All-Star break, one short of the longest winning streak in team history and the best run by any club heading into the break since 1933. But the Mariners are 3-5 since, following an 11-1 loss at Houston on Friday night.

Now, they’ve added the best available arm ahead of the Tuesday trade deadline, one who will join an already-solid rotation that includes Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert.

It’s a massive pickup for a Mariners organization that has not reached the postseason since 2001, the longest active drought among the four major North American pro sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL).

Castillo is 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 14 starts for the Reds this season, striking out 90 and walking 28 in 85 innings. His fastball averages 97 mph. He has a career 3.62 ERA in six seasons, all with Cincinnati.

“It has been a beautiful experience,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “To have my name in the fans’ mouth and having them cheer me on, it is something I will treasure forever.”

Castillo won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, so the Mariners would have him for at least the rest of this year and all of next.

Castillo has bounced back from a career-worst season in 2021, when he lost 16 games and walked a league-high 75 batters. His changeup has been his best pitch for most of his career, but this year, he is actually throwing his four-seam fastball more, and doing so with a lot of success. Opponents have whiffed on 39% of their swings against his four-seamer, the highest rate of Castillo’s career and the highest of any pitcher in the majors (minimum 300 four-seamers thrown).

Castillo has a 1.38 ERA in four starts against the AL this year, second to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (0.69) among qualified pitchers.

The Reds have been moving veteran players for prospects since the end of the lockout earlier this year. In March, they traded Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Mariners, and Thursday, they traded outfielder Tyler Naquin and reliever Phillip Diehl to the New York Mets.

They’re getting a haul from Seattle in this trade, with Marte and Arroyo ranked among the team’s top 10 prospects ahead of the season by ESPN’s McDaniel.

Marte, 20, has spent the year for High-A Everett, hitting .275 with 15 home runs and a team-best 62 runs scored and 55 RBIs to go along with 13 steals entering Friday.

McDaniel ranked Arroyo, also a shortstop, as Seattle’s eighth-best prospect entering the season. The 18-year-old has spent the season at Single-A Modesto, hitting .316 with 76 runs, 67 RBIs, 13 home runs and 21 steals.

Stoudt, a 24-year-old right-hander and a third-round draft pick in 2019, is 6-6 with a 5.28 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Arkansas this season.

And Moore, 22, has a 1.95 ERA in 25 relief appearances at Modesto this season.

“Noelvi Marte has a chance to be an impact middle of the order bat who can play shortstop,” Krall said. “Edwin Arroyo same thing — he has power/speed combo, who can play shortstop. Levi Stoudt has a chance to be a major league starter. Andrew Moore just started to pitch. He was drafted last year. He has explosive, explosive stuff. His fastball is up to 102 with a plus slider.”

Cincinnati infielder Brandon Drury also could be moved before the Tuesday deadline, along with several Reds relievers.

Albert Pujols Named 2022 Recipient of Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at ESPYS

Albert Pujols is celebrating a special honor…

The 42-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals has been named the 2022 recipient of the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.

Albert PujolsPujols received the award as part of the ESPYS on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, another accolade for the retiring slugger.

The award is given to an athlete whose “continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports. The candidate must embrace the core principles that Muhammad Ali embodied so well, including confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and respect.”

Pujols certainly embodies all of those characteristics.

He’s president of the Pujols Family Foundation, which has had a twofold cause since its inception in 2005: helping the impoverished in his native Dominican Republic and aiding those living with Down syndrome in the United States. The slugger’s daughter, Isabella, has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder.

“As great as my career has been, my passion is what I do when the season is over and that is to serve and to give back. That is how I want to be remembered,” Pujols said.

Pujols called Ali an “incredible man” whose legacy “will never be forgotten.” He called it an honor to win an award in his name.

The award was formerly called the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award, but was renamed in 2017, a year after Ali’s death, to honor the legacy of the boxing great’s impact on society.

Other finalists this year included Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, NFL veteran Anthony Barr and Austin FC goalie Brad Stuver.

Tony Gonzalez Among On-Air Talent for Prime Video’s NFL “Thursday Night Football” Programming

Tony Gonzalez is primed for his next broadcasting gig…

The 46-year-old part-Mexican American former American football tight end, who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 17 seasons, will be part of Prime Video’s NFL pregame, halftime and postgame coverage this fall when the service presents its exclusive Thursday Night Football package.

Tony GonzalezGonzalez will work along side former NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who retired in the offseason, and Richard Sherman for each TNF game.

The expanding roster of Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football on-air talent also includes legendary play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and five-time Sports Emmy-winning analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

Fred Gaudelli, producer of seven Super Bowls and a recent inductee into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, will serve as the executive producer of Thursday Night Football’s game coverage.

Multiple Sports Emmy winners Mike Muriano and Spoon Daftary are the executive and senior coordinating producers of Thursday Night Football’s pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage.

Kicking off September 15, Prime Video will be the first streaming service to air a season-long exclusive national broadcast package with the NFL. The 11-year deal includes 15 regular-season games and one preseason game per year, with Prime Video also delivering new pregame, halftime, and postgame shows as well as interactive features like X-Ray and Next Gen Stats powered by AWS. Viewers can stream from the web at amazon.com/TNF or by using the Prime Video app.

Since retiring in 2013, Gonzalez – a 14-time Pro-Bowler – served as an analyst for Fox Sports.

He previously played for the Kansas City Chiefs, before ending his career with the Atlanta Falcons.

Edwin Castro Signs with Creative Artists Agency (CAA)

Edwin Castro has new representation…

The 30-year-old Mexican American Twitch streamer has signed with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) for representation in all areas.

Edwin CastroCastro is best known for his soccer-themed content including FIFA.

He averages 30,000 concurrent live viewers on the Amazon-owned platform and has over 3.5 million followers.

Castro is also active on YouTube and social media channels.

A sports enthusiast, Castro attends major sporting events annually such as WWE, F1, NFL, NBA and MLB.

Among his work with brands, Castro has collaborated with 7-Eleven, Gillette, Electronic Arts and Turtle Beach. Earlier this year, he was seen in a McDonald’s Super Bowl commercial.