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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The NFL has a black cloud hanging above its gender-equality milestone

Sarah Thomas will officiate today’s Washington-Cleveland game. Both teams have female coaches.
Sarah Thomas will officiate today’s Washington-Cleveland game. Both teams have female coaches.
Photo: Getty

Three women will make history today.

When the ball is kicked off today between the Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Browns, it will be the first time in the league’s 100-year history that a game will have a female referee and a female coach on each sideline.

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Sarah Thomas will be the official, Callie Brownson is the Browns chief of staff, and Jennifer King is Washington’s full-year coaching intern. King is the first full-time black female coach in league history.

These women will forever be marked in history as pioneers for helping to push the league forward.

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The NFL has dropped the ball on numerous social issues in the past, often failing to pay attention to marginalized communities as they call for equality.

Neither Colin Kaepernick nor Eric Reid have a job in the league right now, one could argue that both players have been blackballed for the stances on racial justice.

The league still only has four minority head coaches and only two minority general managers even though minority players make up more than 70 percent of the league.

And it has become notorious for not taking strong enough action against players for abusing women.

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This is not to mention the multiple cases of sexual harassment currently haunting the league, most notably in the Washington franchise. In August it was reported that a former cheerleader accused team owner Dan Snyder of being involved in the recording of inappropriate videos of her at a photo shoot. Sadly, Washington is not the only organization that has been accused of misconduct by their cheerleaders.

This is also the same organization that had a racist moniker for nearly 90 years before sponsors forced Snyder’s hand to change the name.

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The NFL didn’t even announce that they would take over the investigation into the Washington Franchise until after criticism from multiple alleged victims and after Snyder suggested the league take over the investigation.

This lack of action by Commissioner Roger Goodell once again put on display how the NFL truly feels about 47 percent of its audience.

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Bruce Arians, the former Arizona Cardinals head coach and now Tampa Bay Buccaneers lead man, was the first to hire a female coach when he named Jen Welter to Arizona’s staff in 2015. In 2018, the league had ten female coaches. Seven were interns and three were full-time staff. Since that time, the number of female full-time assistants has more than doubled.

Last season, Katie Sowers, an offensive assistant with the 49ers, became the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl.

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Slowly but surely, the door is starting to open for women to gain an opportunity to show their football intellect.

There is still a long way to go for women in the NFL but today’s game displays progress for a league that desperately needs to show its commitment to lifting up marginalized communities.

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