BY ADRIAN JARDING | Ball State Sports Link
The National Football League is in a very weird state right now. This is perhaps the weirdest its been since the American Football League was poaching players from the established league in the 1960s, all while the civil rights movement was happening.
During Week 3 the country was polarized when the all 32 teams responded to President Donald Trump by either uniting in arms during the national anthem or protesting in a multitude of ways.
Lost in the midst of this was Beth Mowins, who made NFL history by becoming the first female play-by-play broadcaster for an NFL game on CBS (she called the Browns and Colts).
Mowins had already made history by becoming the first female to broadcast a game on Monday Night Football during the first week of the season for the Chargers and Broncos.
While she was not the first female to call an NFL game, she was the first to do it for a nationally-televised audience.
In spite of all of this, 2015 league MVP Cam Newton felt the need to poke a joke at a female reporter who was asking about receiver routes. This came after he used a black power salute during Week 4 after scoring a touchdown against the Patriots.
I’m not going to get into the whole debate of the protests because its not why I chose to write this piece. I’m just pointing out the irony of a man who is supporting one cause, but is making fun of another.
Women have just as much of a right to watch and love football as men. I think its a wonderful thing that women are finally getting a chance to be more involved in the sport. Football has always been about diversity and inclusion dating back to Lloyd Wells.
For years the only role women had in the sport was to be cheerleaders on the sideline.
The Baltimore Colts were the NFL first team to have cheerleaders in 1954. Then in 1972, Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame general manager Tex Schramm took the idea to another extreme by forming his own cheerleader squad and sexualized them. This was all women were meant to be in the league, eye-candy.
Then in 1975 history was made when former Miss-America Phyllis George was picked up by CBS for the massive television hit, “The NFL Today.” Many believed it was a publicity stunt by the studio and meant to give the viewers someone attractive to look at.
However, George was able to set the standard by which female’s in the league are judged by today.
George was a perfect fit for the show because she could easily relate to the players and provided a personal touch for which her counterparts Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder could not replicate. She conducted the famous interview with Roger Staubach about his personal life. Nobody on the show could’ve gotten this answer out of him but her.
Because of her, there have been many wonderful female reporters on television covering the NFL.
I grew up admiring Suzy Kolber and studied how she handled herself on the field. She was one of my TV idols along with Joe Buck and more recently Katie Nolan.
It wasn’t until I entered this field I understood just how much women in the league have to deal with — and I admired them even more so.
There are many passionate women I know who live, breath and eat football. Even though there isn’t a professional league yet, they have just as much of a right to watch and analyze the game as men do. There are many talented women in our field who know just as much about the NFL if not more than I do, and that says something.
For those who say that the women who are defending themselves against Newton’s remarks need to grow thicker skin, I would like to see you try being in their shoes. Being a broadcaster or journalist is not easy, never mind being a female in a male-dominated sport.
As Newton made evident, this attitude towards women demonstrated by the league severely needs to improve.
Yes, there are steps being made by the Cardinals and Bills hiring female coaches. Sarah Thomas became the first full-time female official in 2013. Mowins is also setting a pathway for future broadcasters. I however would someday like to see a “Rooney rule” for women being hired.
If there were to be a WNFL, I would be the first to hop on board supporting it. Instead of looking to expand internationally, the NFL should first look to keep growing the sport in North America by creating a league for women.
Strides are being made by the creation of the Women’s World Football Games. A trial professional league though would be a great step in creating more awareness for women’s football.
There is a place for women in the sport of football. As a male, I fully support the women who are breaking through in a sport where my gender has dominated since it was founded.
Women are just as passionate about the sport as the men who play it, and they deserve our respect for it. If the league doesn’t step up and do more for women, their fan base will only weaken.
It’s time to let others like Newton know women can talk about passing routes as well — or better — than he can execute them.