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The NFL Has A Record 12 Women Serving As Coaches In 2021, Progress That’s Both Overdue And Just In Time

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 8, 2021

Historic is a deceiving adjective.

Earlier this year, Jennifer King was promoted to the Washington Football Team’s assistant running backs coach, making her the NFL’s first Black female assistant coach. She was followed by Natalia Dorantes, who took over as the WFT’s coordinator of football programs a few months later, making her the first Latina to hold that role in NFL history. Elsewhere in the league, Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar became the first women to win a Super Bowl in the 2020 season. One year earlier, San Francisco’s Katie Sowers made history as the first woman to play for the Lombardi Trophy.

There were eight female coaches in the NFL last season and six advanced to the playoffs. The Women’s Career in Football Forum, which is a two-day event that began in 2017 that takes place during the NFL combine, announced on August 20 that the 2021 season will feature the most female coaches in NFL history at 12.

The WCFF secured 174 opportunities for women and resulted in 21 hirings around the league. Sam Rapoport, the NFL’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, announced that of the participants who have secured a position this season, 83% are women of color. Last season, women reached an all-time high of 38.2% of league office roles. So far in 2021 alone, 44 women who have previously participated in the WCFF program have landed a football operations role at the professional or collegiate level, the highest number ever for the WCFF program in a single year, according to the NFL.

The numbers are significant because of their absence from history. Opportunities for women to be the first at something in the NFL are dwindling and words like “trailblazer” and “pioneer” are being shelved away.

But the historic shift in the number of female coaches in the NFL is also important because of timing. Last July, the Washington Post released its first article detailing the harassment allegations of 15 former Washington Football Team employees and two female journalists from 2006 to 2019. Then in August, a new Post story detailed allegations by an additional 25 women who used to work for the organization.

As history continues to repeat itself, it’s important that it also be made. Three-hundred and fifty nine days after the publication of that second Post story, the WCFF announced its findings.

The 12 female coaches in 2021 represent a much-needed source of hope during another tumultuous summer for the NFL. Last month, the league announced its findings on the Washington Football Team in which no allegation against owner Daniel Snyder was addressed, and a $10 million fine was requested. This summer, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been the subject of several investigations and 22 civil lawsuits as he faces allegations ranging from inappropriate conduct to sexual assault.

For these reasons, when the NFL opens its 2021 season September 9 with a game featuring the Super-Bowl-defending Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, the sight of Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar on the sideline is powerful as women in and around the league continue to fight for their place in it.

“I do look forward to the day that it’s no longer newsworthy to be a woman working in the pros or making the Super Bowl for that matter,” Javadifar said prior to Super Bowl LV. “And, you know, I hope we get to a point where all people are afforded equal opportunities to work in professional sports because there are a lot of great qualified coaches out there.”

At the same media availability, Locust said that she does not focus on being the first because her primary concern is helping the team win.

“It wouldn’t matter if we were second in or 273rd,” Locust said. “And I mean, like we acknowledge the fact there hasn’t been many before us, but it’s not anything that we kind of keep in the forefront of what we do on a daily basis.”

Their head coach, Bruce Arians, hired the first female coaching intern in 2015 with Jen Welter in Arizona.

Now there are many more. Sarah Hogan, the assistant director of coaching operations for the Atlanta Falcons. Robyn Wilkey, the executive assistant to the head coach for the Chicago Bears. The Philadelphia Eagles promoted Catherine Raîche to the vice president of football operations last season, making her the highest-ranking woman in personnel in NFL history at the time. Carolina Panthers Executive Assistant Morgan Fleming. Callie Brownson, the Chief of Staff for the Cleveland Browns. Baltimore Ravens Director of Football Operations Megan McLaughlin.

Someday, there will be too many to name.


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