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These Five Women Are Redefining Boardrooms Around the NFL

Photo by Thomson200 / CC0 1.0

In terms of public perception, the NFL was an unabashed “boy’s club” for decades. Sundays during football season were well known as a day when men gathered with other men to watch men play a gladiator-esque sport under the direction of men. 

That’s no longer the case. Today, women are responsible for 45 per cent of the NFL’s viewership. We work in every non-player aspect of the sport, from the front office and TV broadcasts to coaching and officiating. To celebrate the contributions of women in football, here’s a look at five female NFL executives crushing it with teams and the league office. 

Katie Blackburn – Cincinnati Bengals

Blackburn may be the daughter of Bengals owner Mike Brown, but you better believe she has earned her own way to the top of Cincinnati’s front office. 

Blackburn began working for the Bengals in 1991 following a stint at a Cincinnati law firm. Over the years, she has held a number of strategic positions with the team and now serves as Executive Vice President. 

Blackburn was the first woman to act as a chief contract negotiator in the NFL. She also advises the league on workplace diversity and sits on the Super Bowl advisory committee. 

Amy Trask – Oakland Raiders

Trask was a trailblazer for women holding down the executive ranks in the NFL. A career-long fixture with the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, she began her career in pro football as a college intern. 

Trask was promoted to the Raiders’ legal department in 1987. In 1997, she became the first female chief executive in the NFL when she was named CEO of the Raiders. She remained at the helm until 2013, overseeing the Raiders through two AFC West division-winning seasons and a conference championship in 2002. 

Trask now serves as an analyst with CBS Sports. 

Hannah Gordon – San Francisco 49ers

Law and football collide for Gordon, a Stanford-educated attorney. She has served as general counsel to the Super Bowl LIV odds contending 49ers since 2016 with the additional role of Chief Administrative Officer.

Gordon also oversees San Fran’s communications, public relations, and the 49ers Foundation, the team’s award-winning community outreach organization. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, she serves as Secretary of the Bay Area Host Committee and has had an integral hand in bringing events like Super Bowl 50, Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour, and WrestleMania 31 to Levi’s Stadium. 

 Photo by Joseph Moran / CC BY-SA 4.0

Betsy Nabel – The NFL Office

Football’s top advising doctor comes with some impressive medical credentials. 

The NFL tapped Nabel to be the league’s Chief Health and Medical Advisor in 2015 in the wake of growing concerns about how football impacts the well-being of players. Nabel works on each of the NFL’s medical advisory committees while advising the league on player safety and health. 

Surprisingly, the NFL is just Nabel’s side hustle. The accomplished doctor is also a cardiologist and president of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Somehow she also finds time to serve as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

Charlotte Jones Anderson – Dallas Cowboys

Worth a mind-boggling $5 billion, the Cowboys are the most valuable sports franchise in the world. On top of the Cowboys’ branding empire sits one woman – Charlotte Jones Anderson, Dallas’s Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer. 

Anderson, who is in her 30th year as a Cowboys exec, is responsible for all facets of brand marketing including fan engagement, licensed apparel, and community relations. She’s even responsible for shaping the overall design and presentation of AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys’ state-of-the-art home venue. 

In 2012, Anderson became the first woman to chair the NFL Foundation, the league’s philanthropic arm. 

There’s Still Room to Grow

Although great inroads have been made, there’s still room for improvement. According to the University of Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, women make up just 28 per cent of employees at NFL franchises. The number drops to 18 per cent in vice president-level or higher positions. 

The picture is slightly better at the NFL league office where 35 per cent of jobs are held by women, including 29 per cent of senior executive positions. 

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