The NFL is actively branching out to create more diversity in the league by creating more opportunities for women to work as coaches and scouts.
Jane McManus of ESPN broke news Tuesday morning that the NFL has hired former women’s football pro tackle player Sam Rapoport as director of football development.
The goal is to find women who can be trained to become scouts and coaches, and to create the opportunities for them to succeed.
“My role is to create programming to show them that the pipeline is open to them,” Rapoport said Tuesday, “and create that pipeline for females to enter into positions that were traditionally held by men.”
Because of her experience playing football, Rapoport has connections that should facilitate growth in this area of need.
The NFL has been looking for ways to make the league more diverse for years, dating back to the Rooney Rule, which states that every NFL team must interview at least one minority before making a hire.
We could easily argue that the Rooney Rule hasn’t been as effective as it should be, but that’s the strategy that the league is taking to get women involved as well.
McManus notes there was a summit among women in the front office during Super Bowl Week this past season in which Roger Goodell announced the creation of a “Rooney Rule for women in front-office jobs, meaning that for every managerial position and higher, a woman would be interviewed before a hire is made.”
She notes in her column that 30 percent of NFL front-office jobs are held by women, but there are hardly any football operations jobs. To date, Sarah Thomas is the only full-time referee in the NFL, and Kathryn Smith is the only full-time coach (quality control with the Buffalo Bills).
Already on the job for two months, Rapoport has found it challenging. She detailed her biggest obstacle so far, saying:
“We didn’t grow up in the male tackle football world, so we don’t have a friend who is a coach, or, ‘I played for him, so he’ll recommend me for a job.’
“That’s a reason this position exists, and that’s a big-time focus for me, just connecting owners and general managers to women who are very qualified and very passionate and ready to go.”
We applaud Rapoport for taking on the tall task of creating a pipeline for women in the NFL. And we wish her the best in this endeavor.