Pro Football Glass Ceiling Broken

smith-kathrynUpdated 1/21/2016

The Buffalo Bills announced that they have hired Kathryn Smith as quality control-special teams coach. Smith becomes the first full-time female coach in National Football League history. The Arizona Cardinals got the ball rolling in 2015 when they hired Dr. Jen Welter as a coaching intern through training camp and the preseason. Before the start of the 2015 season, the NFL also announced the hiring of Sarah Thomas as a line judge. She became the first full-time female official in NFL history. 

While these examples of excellence above are great milestones for the league,women have been making history in and shaping the NFL for years. Take a look at a sampling of women who have had great success in the NFL through the years.

League and Team Executives

Amy Trask – joined the Raiders organization in 1987 and ascended to its CEO in 1997. She was a longtime confidante of Hall of Famer Al Davis, while serving the organization for 25 years before her retirement in 2013.

Katie Blackburn – the granddaughter of Hall of Famer Paul Brown, Blackburn has worked with the Cincinnati Bengals since 1991. She is currently the Bengals’ Executive Vice President. She oversees player contract negotiations and the club's management of the NFL salary cap. Blackburn also serves as chair of the NFL's diversity committee.

Dawn Aponte – is the Miami Dolphins’ Vice President of Football Administration, the team’s chief contract negotiator and salary-cap guru. Dawn is a 23-year league veteran and got her start managing the salary cap for the New York Jets under Hall of Famer Bill Parcells.

Georgia Frontiere – was the majority owner and chairwoman of the Ram’s organization for 28 years. Her teams played in the Super Bowl three times (XIV, XXXIV, XXXVI), winning once, after the 1999 season.

Charlotte Jones Anderson – is the Executive Vice President / VP of Brand Management / President of Charity Foundation for the Dallas Cowboys. She has had final say in everything from managing Super Bowls to ensuring the proper type of concrete used in the construction of Cowboys Stadium.

Casey Foyt, Carlie Irsay-Gordon and Kalen Irsay – are the Vice Chair/ Owners of the Indianapolis Colts. Casey joined the Colts in 2007 after working at the League office In London where she helped in the planning of the NFL’s first regular season game played outside North America. Carlie joined the Colts in 2008 Kalen joined the team in 2010. She is president of the Indianapolis Colts Women’s Organization and has represented the team at NFL Owner’s Meetings.

Virginia McCaskey – has been the owner of the Chicago Bears since 1983. She is the daughter of Hall of Famer and founder coach and owner of the Bears George Halas. She has been surrounded by professional football and the Bears her entire life.

Denise DeBartolo York – is a Co-Chairman of the San Francisco 49ers. She has been an integral part of more than 30 years of 49ers football since her father Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. bought the franchise in 1977. Denise is an active member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Trustees, where she helps to oversee the League’s ongoing support of the museum.  

Norma Hunt – is the only woman who has attended every Super Bowl. She is the widow of Hall of Famer and founder of the Kansas City Chiefs Lamar Hunt. She oversees the family’s philanthropic and civic efforts in both Kansas City and Dallas. 

Renie Anderson – is the Senior Vice President of Sponsorship and Partner Management for the NFL. She got her start in the sports industry working in the Arena Football League as an assistant to then-Commissioner, now Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker. She has secured sponsorships for the League with the likes of Bridgestone, Marriott, Papa John’s and USAA. 

Michelle McKenna-Doyle – is Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer for the NFL. She was hired in 2012 and leads the league office’s information technology team. She is responsible for the league’s technology strategy, shared service delivery, and corporate technology.

On the Field and in the Booth

Shannon Eastin – was the first female official to work a regular-season NFL games. She was a line judge during the first three weeks of the season in 2012.

Gayle Sierens – in 1987 teamed with commentator Dave Rowe to become the first woman to announce an NFL game on network television. Gayle called the play-by-play for a Kansas City Chiefs 41-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 27, 1987.

Lesley Visser – was the first female sideline reporter on "Monday Night Football," and the first woman ever to report from the sidelines during a Super Bowl. Visser, in 2006, was the first woman to receive the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, which recognizes "long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football."



Did You Know…

The Los Angeles Dandelions were a professional football team? They played in the National Women’s Football League from 1972-76. Barbara Patton was a hard-hitting linebacker for the club for five seasons. Her son Marvcus went on to emulate his mother playing 204 games in the NFL over 13 seasons as a linebacker for three different teams.

The National Woman’s Football League had its own version of Jim Brown. Linda Jefferson played for the Toledo Troopers for six seasons. In that time, the 5’4”, 130lb. halfback amassed six 1,000 yard seasons, 140 touchdowns, 8,207 yards for a 12 yards per carry average. 

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