NFL Establishes ‘Rooney Rule’ for Women

Roger Goodell
The Associated Press

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to burnish the image of his league by embracing feminism; promising an expansion of the 2003 “Rooney Rule” that required teams to consider minorities in their executive hiring to now include women.

Speaking at the first “Women’s Summit” at Super Bowl 50, Goodell stated:

 We believe in diversity. We believe we’re better as an organization when we have good people at the table. We have great people at the table… We’re also seeing it on the field. Sarah Thomas, Sarah’s right here. Sarah was our first NFL female official on the field this year. Sarah, congratulations. And she did a fantastic job, and we’re very proud of her. We also have people breaking into coaching ranks. I don’t know if Jen is here, is Jen here? Jen’s right next to her. Jen (Welter) is the first coach last year in the NFL. And she set a trend, we now have a second coach of the Buffalo Bills, a female coach (Kathryn Smith).

Goodell continued:

You can see that progress is being made. And our commitment is we have something called the Rooney Rule, which requires us to make sure when we have an opening, that on the team or the league level, that we are going to interview a diverse slate of candidates. Well we’re going to make that commitment and we’re going to formalize that we, as a league, are going to do that with women as well in all of our executive positions. Again, we’re going to keep making progress here and make a difference.

Precedent exists for women in executive positions in the league; Amy Trask served as CEO of the Oakland Raiders for 16 years. Dawn Aponte presently serves as executive vice president of football administration for the Miami Dolphins.

In 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female official in the league; in January, Kathryn Smith was named special teams assistant coach for the Buffalo Bills. Many women currently serve as vice presidents for the league itself; the NFL claims 30 percent of its employees in the front office are women.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has said since 2002 that she would like to serve as NFL commissioner, added, “They keep looking in the same channels; they keep finding the same people.”

Other celebrities invited to speak at the summit include Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, and actress and “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks.