National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell gestures while speaking before the NFL Women’s Summit on Thursday in San Francisco. (Ben Margot/AP)

NFL aims to boost women in leadership, former Oakland exec suggests calling it ‘Al Davis rule’

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will implement a “Rooney Rule” requiring that women be interviewed for executive positions with teams around the league and in his own office, too.

Goodell made the announcement Thursday in his opening remarks at the first NFL Women’s Summit, part of Super Bowl 50.

“We believe in diversity,” Goodell said. “We believe we’re better as an organization when we have good people at the table. We have great people at the table. We’re also seeing it on the field. …

“You can see that progress is being made and our commitment is, we have something called the Rooney Rule, which requires us to make sure when we have an opening that on the team or the league level that we are going to interview a diverse slate of candidates,” Goodell said. “Well, we’re going to make that commitment and we’re going to formalize that we, as a league, are going to do that for women as well in all of our executive positions. Again, we’re going to keep making progress here and make a difference.”

Former Oakland CEO Amy Trask, the NFL’s first female CEO, said on Twitter, “I think this should be the Al Davis rule,” referring to the late Raiders owner who put his faith in her decades ago when he wasn’t even required to do so.

“I am bothered and saddened that there is a need for a rule to do what is right and what is smart,” Trask, now a CBS analyst and working the Super Bowl, told The Associated Press. “I had the privilege and pleasure of working for a man who needed no rule to evaluate people without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and other such characteristics.”

The Bills hired the NFL’s first full-time female assistant coach last month, Kathryn Smith, as special teams quality control coach.

That move comes after Jen Welter coached the Cardinals’ inside linebackers during Arizona’s training camp last summer, while Sarah Thomas became the league’s first female official this past season.

“Sarah was our first female NFL official on the field this year,” Goodell said. “She did a fantastic job, and we’re very proud of her. We also have people breaking into the coaching ranks. Jen was the first coach last year. She set a trend, and we now have a second coach with the Buffalo Bills.”

Goodell’s announcement immediately drew attention.

“The hurdles are there,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. “Part of the challenge of breaking through is to change traditional patterns of hiring and advancement. It’s not a question of people don’t have merit or they aren’t as good. … I guarantee you there are plenty of women and minorities who are qualified for positions, but unless you actually go outside to look, outside normal channels, you won’t find them, which is why the Rooney Rule is very important. When you’re told you have to diversify your pool, you will get some remarkable candidates within that pool.”

Liz Boardman, a senior client partner at the recruitment firm Korn Ferry, believes such a move by the NFL can only be a benefit and an example for other businesses big or small to diversify and change their hiring practices.

“It shows fantastic progress and momentum. It’s setting a trend for the rest of the world. That’s what sports does, that’s what the NFL can do,” Boardman said. “The NFL has a lot of high-ranking women and this just formalizes the effort they have put forward for several years. It just continues their momentum in terms of leading the charge.”

amy traskArizona CardinalsCondoleezza RiceJen Welterkathryn smithkorn ferryliz boardmanNFLnfl women's summitOakland RaidersRoger Goodellsarah thomasSuper Bowl 50women in management

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