The NFL Needs Some Good News
by Anne Montgomery
The NFL has a perception problem. Domestic abuse, child abuse, cheating. Understandably, our most popular and lucrative team spectator sport is trying to rid itself of a host of bad press, much of which has threatened to alienate close to half the league’s fans.
It may come as a shock to some football buffs, but about 45% of the NFL’s fan base is female. Women spend roughly 1.5 billion dollars annually on team memorabilia, half the league’s total sales. The NFL’s market value is listed at 45 billion dollars, equal almost to Starbucks. Now imagine if the company that provides your morning latte disregarded half its clientele.
Those at the helm of the NFL understand they have a PR problem and have scrambled in an effort to eradicate the idea that they regard women as second-class citizens. Last September, the league hired four women, who, according to Commissioner Roger Goodell, will work “on the development and implementation of the league’s policies, resources and outreach on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.” Admittedly, a good start, assuming the group actually has any real power.
Then the NFL hired a female official. Sarah Thomas will take the field this season, the first woman to don stripes and toss a yellow flag for the league. Also a positive step, though it’s easy to question the timing of this hire. Clearly, the NFL could have put a woman in the officiating ranks earlier, but why quibble.
Now, the Arizona Cardinals have announced that they have “hired” a woman to coach the team’s linebackers. Media outlets blared the information with almost giddy abandon. One had to go fairly deep into most news articles to discover that Dr. Jen Welter, who holds a master’s degree in sports psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology, is, in fact, an intern with the team, which by definition means “a student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, at a trade or occupation in order to gain work experience.” (Imagine, holding a Ph.D. and being asked to intern.) Welter has played and coached in women’s leagues, still, at this time, she is not projected to be working with the Cardinals come kickoff on opening day of the regular season.
While the Cardinals appear to have independently come up with the idea of bringing Welter on board, one can’t help but wonder if NFL executives – read the Commissioner’s office – didn’t send down some double top-secret directive to all teams: Find a place for women now!
In the interest of full disclosure, I have been an NFL fan for most of my life. Despite the league’s foibles, there’s probably little they can do to drive me away from my TV come Sunday. Still the NFL would be wise to consider the concerns of all of its fans, lest it drop that golden egg and no longer find itself listed as the highest-grossing sport league in the world.
Now, if we could just get them to do something about those cheerleaders.
Anne Montgomery was interviewed by Fox News. Click here to read or watch what Anne had to say.
Not only is Anne Montgomery a sports aficionado, she is also a passionate author. Here is a little from her latest mystery.
A Light in the Desert traces the story of a pregnant teenager who bears an odd facial deformity, a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper who, as he descends into the throes of mental illness, latches onto the girl, and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.
The Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst’s, a deadly act of sabotage. Their lives are thrown into turmoil when local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters make camp by the twisted wreckage of the Sunset Limited. As the search for the saboteurs continues, the authorities find more questions than answers. The girl mysteriously vanishes, the assassin struggles to maintain his sanity, and a child is about to be born in the wilderness.
Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.
When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.