It appears the NFL has laid the foundation to give more women greater opportunities to work in what has been predominantly a man’s world.
The League recently appointed Sam Rapoport, a former women’s professional football player, as its new director of football development.
She’ll be tasked with overseeing a program designed to improve job and career opportunities for women within the league, both in front offices and on the field in coaching and officiating.
Rapoport is tasked with identifying women throughout the country who are qualified to hold on-field positions in the NFL. At her direction, the league is developing a program that will train female candidates active on the high school, college and professional level to be coaches, officials, scouts and trainers – and then connect them to the NFL’s 32 teams.
“Right now, the overall goal is to create opportunities for females on the football side. It really is [about] putting women in a similar position that men have had previously to succeed and to advance,” Rapoport told FOXBusiness.com. “We know those women are out there, we know they’re qualified and we know they know football just as well as men do. The challenge previously has always been the connection to the NFL.”
This sounds like a good idea in theory, but given the league’s history and attitude towards women (best illustrated by the outcry over things like the Ray Rice domestic violence suspension), it’s possible that it’s going to take a while (and some concrete results) before women buy in completely.
But Rapaport sounds like she could be the right person for the job:
The NFL has a direct financial incentive to show young women that professional football is both a welcoming community and a potential career option – especially given its goal of reaching $25 billion in annual revenue by the year 2027.
Rapoport, who started in the NFL league office as an intern at age 21, says that her program will do just that.
“I’m a firm believer, especially for young girls, in [showing] them that adult women are coaches, scouts, officials. They’re in authority positions on the football field,” Rapoport said. “I firmly believe that that does change the mentality of men and women as they consider women in these roles.”
Women currently hold about 30% of the NFL’s front office positions, but they’re also making inroads on the field. In 2015, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter, the NFL’s first female position coach, while Sarah Thomas became the league’s first-ever full-time female on-field official.
It does seem like the issues like the league’s inherent biases toward men in traditionally male-dominated roles isn’t something that Rapoport’s program is going to fix. That’s a systemic issue, and it’s very possible that the NFL’s appointment of Rapoport and announcement of this initiative is a bit the sort of attempt at misdirection that’s become all too common under the Goodell regime.
And it’s also not going to fix the league’s issues on the subject of domestic violence.
But no matter how accurate a more cynical view might be, if they give Rapoport the resources and authority to actually accomplish what she’s been tasked to do, it’s probably a step in the right direction.