NFL to Expand the Rooney Rule

This past Thursday, the NFL hosted the first NFL Women’s Summit. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Rooney Rule would now extend toward women, meaning that NFL teams will now be required to interview women for executive positions. The Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was initially instituted in 2003. At that point in time, the rule required that all NFL teams interview a minority candidate for executive positions. While the timeline of the policy has not been announced, the rule will be extremely similar to the Rooney Rule.

The rule was created in 2003 in the hopes of diversifying the individuals who held high-ranking positions in the NFL and opening up opportunities for minority individuals seeking those roles. Rooney’s specific role within this context was his position as the chairman of the league’s diversity committee. The Rooney Rule had a monumental impact, bringing the percentage of African American coaches to 22% in the NFL from an initial figure of 6%.

Now that that rule will extend to women, recent progress for women looking for careers in NFL positions will continue to grow. Sarah Thomas became the NFL’s first female referee this past year, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as a coaching intern and, just a few weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills hired the first full time coach in NFL history. Even though recent controversy about the future of the NFL has clouded the level of progress women can potentially achieve in executive positions, this new rule is certainly promising for women searching for influential roles in the NFL.

An article published in Bleacher Report noted, “Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers have proved to be two of the NFL’s top coaches, but it’s possible they may have never gotten a fair shot without the Rooney Rule. If this version of the Rooney Rule can do the same thing for female executives, then it is a move worth making.”

As women gain higher-level positions in male-dominated fields, it makes sense that the NFL would be the next arena where women succeed in obtaining those executive positions. With this new version of the Rooney Rule being put on the books, the chances have that have improved significantly.

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