It should come as no shock that the NFL has an image problem when it comes to women. With new domestic and sexual abuse allegations popping up nearly every day it’s rare these days that you see positive female fueled news coming out of the NFL.
As a female fan of football, I feel constantly conflicted as to whether or whether not I want to contribute to a sports culture that constantly turns the other way when it comes to addressing the atrocities against women, often committed at the hands of their players/employees. On one hand, I want to hope that if one by one we as women start to sit out watching football on Mondays, Sundays, and Thursdays it will make a difference. But sadly I don’t think it will.
So I reluctantly, but enthusiastically, still enjoy my football Sundays. Even if the Lions continue to get my hopes up and then consistently disappoint me. Let’s see what happens next week and you may change my mind boys…
But this is not meant to be a dissertation on the overall female image problem with the NFL. Instead, it is a praise of the women who are trying to change the league from the top down.
The Trickle-Down Effect
The Wall Street Journal recently released an article about the Philadelphia Eagles front office. And the fact that 5 of the top advisors in that front office are…you guessed it…WOMEN.
They may all come from different professional backgrounds, but my favorite section of the piece focused on Jen Kavanagh, a former NBC executive..
“I came in with entertainment DNA,” she says, “and I had to learn football.” -Jen Kavanagh
Which was shortly followed up with…
“She quickly learned that she didn’t have that much to learn: football is entertainment, and the Eagles hired her to be the team’s SVP of media and marketing because of her abilities in that field.” -Andrew Beaton
In essence that’s exactly what all sports, not just the NFL, are. They are ENTERTAINMENT. And as a site full of entertainers I think that’s why we relate to them so much.
A Legacy of Lady Bosses
Once I fell down the rabbit hole of this article I found another interesting headline. In a very male-dominated sport, especially from an ownership standpoint, the “Fab Four”, as they are dubbed, stand out. Not only for their leadership but the amount of time that these women have been involved with the game of football.
In fact, they even got their own NFL Film this year when commissioner Roger Goddell’s wife, Jane, finally convinced them to sit down and talk about their life long love affairs with the sport. Which, let’s be honest, is a somewhat extraordinary feat. Considering that the NFL is now 100 years old, most of these women will soon be nearing the century mark themselves. And as women, similar in age to what my own grandmother would have been, growing up during the depression and going through some of the worst humanitarian struggles and conflicts our nation has seen, have chosen to stay incredibly private because that’s what you did in their day.
“A Lifetime Of Sundays” follows how Virginia Halas McCaskey, Martha Firestone Ford, Pat Rooney, and Norma Hunt first fell in love with the game and ultimately achieved the highest status as the only 4 four female owners in the league.
Not only are they the ultimate leaders of their teams, but they are the ultimate leaders of some of the oldest franchises in the NFL.
The Chicago Bears were established in 1920. Virginia Halas would be born 3 years later. The Detroit Lions were established in 1934. Martha Ford was 9 years old. The Pittsburgh Steelers were established 1933. Patricia Rooney was a year old. The Kansas City Chiefs were last to be established in 1959, when their now owner Norma Hunt was 27 years old.
Needless to say, all of these women were born into football. I joked to our writers room that Martha Ford in the War Room during the draft was a boss mood that I wanted to adapt going forward. But it shouldn’t be a joke. There is nothing more impressive than a woman, sitting in the middle of the room surrounded by suits, being the most powerful voice in the room. And like most other women of her generation, she did it in impeccable style.
There is no doubt that the NFL has a very long way to go with regard to its image problem with women. But hey, at least these groups of women are proving that some progress has been made.
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