The NFL is not known for having a stellar track record when it comes to women's issues. Now, however, commissioner Roger Goodell is attempting to reach out to women, requiring teams to interview women for NFL executive positions. Though women make up 30 percent of the employees in the NFL's front office, women are frequently underrepresented in the NFL.
The move is similar to the Rooney Rule, that required teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations positions. The Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner and NFL diversity committee head Dan Rooney, was implemented in 2002 after a spate of minority coaches were fired and data suggested that minority coaches were less likely to be hired even if they had stronger qualifications.
In announcing the new rule, Goodell said, via ESPN, "Again, we're going to keep making progress here and make a difference."
Last month, the Buffalo Bills hired a woman, Kathryn Smith, as their special-teams quality control coach. In the preseason, Jen Welter was brought on as a temporary intern assistant coach. She was not hired permanently.
While the rule will provide increased opportunities for women, the league still has a long way to go. The NFL's woefully inadequate response to the Ray Rice domestic violence incident and other abuse controversies has angered both women and men.
Most recently, Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns was alleged to have hit his girlfriend "several times," yet managed to avoid charges, according to NFL.com. Earlier in the season he was involved in another domestic incident and also walked away without legal consequences. As is common in such situations, the alleged victim of the assaults refused to cooperate with police, and charges were not filed.
Interviewing women for executive positions does not make up for the NFL's apparent indifference, inconsistent responses, and lack of meaningful programs to punish and attempt to rehabilitate players embroiled in domestic violence incidents.