The NFL has had a rule in place for several years that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coach and executive openings, a rule that has come to be known as the Rooney Rule. Speaking at the NFL Women's Summit at Super Bowl 50, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league will expand the Rooney Rule to apply to female candidates as well for executive positions.
"You can see that progress is being made," Goodell said, according to NFL.com. "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. Well we're going to make that commitment and we're going to formalize that we, as a league, are going to do that with women as well in all of our executive positions. Again, we're going to keep making progress here and make a difference."
The rule means that teams will have to interview a female candidate in addition to a minority candidate now when searching for executives, a much-needed and welcome step for the league.
In the past year, the NFL has made strides in the area, though there's still a lot of work to be done - something the expansion of the Rooney Rule should, hopefully, help with. Last year, Sarah Thomas was hired as the first full-time female official in NFL history, while Jen Welter became the first female coach in NFL history as she interned with the Arizona Cardinals during training camp. More recently, the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as their special teams quality-control coach, making her the first full-time female coach in league history.
Furthermore, Dawn Aponte has served as an executive with the Miami Dolphins. From 2010-2011, she served as the senior vice president of football operations, and then in 2012 she was promoted to executive vice president of football administration, a role she still currently holds. Likewise, Amy Trask (currently an analyst with CBS Sports) worked with the Oakland Raiders for 25 years, including as CEO from 1997-2013.
The Colts also have females working in high-up roles, as the daughters of Jim Irsay - Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Foyt, and Kalen Irsay - all hold the title of vice chair/owner. They are called as the "next generation of ownership for the club" on the Colts' website, as they are fully expected to take over control of the team whenever Jim decides to step aside. Two years ago, when Jim Irsay was undergoing treatment after a drug-related arrest and then suspended for six games, Carlie Irsay-Gordon ran the team and assumed her father's role for a period of time, while her sisters were also very involved in the day-to-day operations of the team. The three have taken on a larger role in recent years and are very involved with the franchise.