Start making changes

“Maybe we need to hire a female NFL commissioner?”

That’s a great idea that my male friend brought up in the wake of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension from the NFL, and the league’s botched handling of the case in which video surfaced of Rice punching his wife in a New Jersey hotel elevator … but let’s take it a step further. 

Change begins at the top of the food chain. Not necessarily with a new female commissioner, but NFL organizations (MLB, NHL, and NBA, too) need more female representation within their front offices.

Go into a pro sports facility or even a major college football or basketball facility and where are the women you see? They’re administrative assistants, or maybe a media relations representative, or an athletic trainer. Or maybe a reporter. Or a wife or a daughter of someone on staff. They’re not working in titled positions in front offices with responsibilities such as player personnel, team operations or scouts. And they certainly aren’t coaches.

Is there a Rooney Rule for women? If Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was smart – or if he might possibly have smart people around him (and we might be giving the Ravens too much credit by stating that) – he’d propose its institutionalization. And not just as an olive branch to the women the Ravens and the NFL will have alienated.

There’s still another area that needs to be addressed – consider how pop culture and the media portray women in sports:

Cameron Diaz was a Machiavellian team president in “Any Given Sunday,” – whose quarterback tried to ask her out on a date.

Jennifer Garner was a salary cap expert in “Draft Day” … who secretly carried the general manager’s child.

Annie Savoy. Enough said.

Even on broadcasts, there are few women *in the broadcast booth* – but chances are, they’re tertiary. We can recognize the women on the sidelines, but chances are, more people are interested in their Instagram account and their photo shoots than their knowledge of the post route.

The other day on a Detroit sports talk radio station, the afternoon radio guys wrapped up an interview with a female television personality and after she hung up, one of the first things they said was, “Man, she is hot.”

*This* is how men are identifying women in the industry? And marginalizing them? How do they view the female fan base? 

The botched handling of the Ray Rice saga reminds us that yet again, “le deuxieme sexe” isn’t a priority for the NFL. Unless it involves pink cleats and wristbands in the month of October.

Instead of devoting a month to breast cancer awareness, devote it to domestic violence awareness and sexual assault awareness. Ask a survivor of an abusive husband or a survivor of rape to address an NFL team.

The league has a chance to rectify itself after the Ray Rice situation – and has the chance to become an agent for change.

Sadly, it took a woman being punched in the face for the culture to realize change has to be made.


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