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Evaluation: NFL’s appeal to women is not about pink jerseys

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There was a time when the NFL thought appealing to female fans meant pink jerseys and bedazzled apparel.

Not anymore. Those stereotypes are long gone.

The league has made it a priority to extend opportunities for girls in every aspect of the game from front-office positions to the sidelines. The NFL had probably the most women in on-field assistant coaching roles initially of the 2022 season with 15 than any men’s skilled sport.

“I believe something we’ve done well prior to now couple of years that I feel enthusiastic about, and we speak to hundreds of girls who love the game, is we don’t wish to be othered as football fans,” said Sam Rapoport, the NFL’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “We don’t wish to have like bedazzled cooking tools or we don’t must wear Russell Wilson’s jersey in pink. I mean, some people do like that, and I don’t wish to take that away from them. But there’s something you lose if you other fans.

“We’re fans, just like all gender is a fan. We love the game. We’re into it. We love the storylines. We love the stats. We would like to discuss it on Sundays. We would like to make use of it as a connection tool with our family.”

Rapoport, a former skilled quarterback in a women’s tackle football league, has spent twenty years working to expand profession opportunities for girls within the NFL. She points to the stats to prove her point.

Women and girls made up 46% of the NFL fanbase (ages 8-plus) within the U.S., amounting to 84 million female fans in 2021, in line with data from last yr’s SSRS Sports Poll. The gender balance is comparable amongst the subsequent generation of fans, with 45% of the NFL’s fanbase under age 35 being women and girls. Also, 56% of girls and girls ages 8-plus within the U.S. are fans of the NFL, making the NFL the No. 1 league amongst this demographic.

They’re not only watching. They’re playing, too. Football participation amongst girls has grown, In high schools, 24% more girls are playing football — tackle and flag — now in comparison with 2014-15.

“The numbers don’t lie, right?” Rapoport said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “Half of our fanbase are women they usually’re avid fans. They understand the game and we just must be sure that that we proceed to represent this sport, that it belongs to everyone and never just have women on the side in our commercials where they’re cooking or making team snacks or things like that. Like, no, we’re in front of the tv screaming our heads off that there was a Pick-6 in that game. And so that’s the evolution. I’m proud that we’ve really done an ideal job on that.”

Rapoport created the NFL Women’s Forum in 2017 to attach qualified women to football operations positions in skilled and college football programs. Greater than 225 females have been hired for various positions because the forum began in 2017.

“An interesting a part of the NFL Women’s Forum that I believe loads of people don’t know is it’s not like a rah-rah women’s empowerment forum,” Rapoport said. “You would put any 40 people in that room and all the things can be applicable to them. So we don’t we don’t start out the music with: ‘I’m woman, hear me roar.’ And, we don’t have pink streamers. There’s a spot for that. I also don’t wish to take pink away from little girls and boys in any gender who do need a pink Tom Brady jersey. That’s cool.

“But the reality is that what we’re attempting to do is we don’t wish to subtly show women that there’s a place for them. That you must organically show everyone that everybody belongs. And in order that’s why I feel really passionate. I thrust back so much with the Women’s Forum that it’s not very women heavy. It just so happens at 40 women within the room. We don’t ignore that fact. We work to develop them and we talk concerning the challenges that ladies have. But I believe it’s very essential if you’re creating gender equity programs to be sure that you’re not othering by mistake, and loads of programs try this.”

Because the number of girls within the NFL continues to rise, there may come a degree when it’s considered standard operating procedure for teams to rent female executives and coaches.

For now, women are making it known they’re here to remain. They’ve made the NFL a women’s game, too.

“It doesn’t feel like a giant deal that I’m a girl,” Katie Sylvan said about her role because the Los Angeles Chargers director of football administration. “I do look ahead to that.”

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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