The first-ever NFL Women's Summit took place on Thursday and the event opened with an announcement of a rule that would increase women's role and participation in the male-dominated sport. Said to be introduced as soon as it is formalized, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's Rooney Rule will require women be interviewed for executive positions with teams in the league.
The Rooney Rule was established in 2003 to push teams to reach out to candidates for top coaching positions who they might not otherwise consider; it required at least one minority candidate be interviewed for an open head coaching position. Now, Goodell intends to extend that rule to women to encourage and advance their capacities as decision-makers in the NFL.
Speaking to the 250-strong audience at the summit, Goodell pointed to the recent hirings of Dr. Jen Welter as the Arizona Cardinals' assistant coaching intern and Kathryn Smith as the Buffalo Bills' first female full-time assistant coach as evidence that "progress is being made."
Goodell also spoke about a partnership with the Women's Sports Foundation to set up a flag football league that would up the involvement of young girls in the sport, invoking the impact that sports has had on his 14-year-old twin daughters.
After a short speech, Goodell introduced former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose name has been floated as potential successor to Goodell for NFL commissioner.
The effort to incorporate women into the NFL at an executive level is perhaps part of the response to the NFL's history of alleged abuse against women.
The video of Ray Rice striking his then-fiancée caused an uproar that raised a national conversation on the NFL's handling of domestic violence among its players. The league subsequently hired women advisers to develop a domestic violence policy.
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