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It took Sheila Ford Hamp about a second to respond when asked about the potential for women in key roles in the NFL.

“The sky is the limit for anything women want to do,” said Hamp, principal owner of the Detroit Lions.

Dee Haslam, co-owner of the Cleveland Browns, repeated this statement:

“We see more and more women who love sport and want a career in sport. The door has opened wide and I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to the moment when we don’t have to talk about how to open the door to women and people of color, that the door is wide open. “

Those words were welcomed by the 40 young women – and potential football professionals – who participated in the fifth annual women’s careers in the league’s football forum late last month. Although it was virtually the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum’s message got through loud and clear.

No more than listening to Hamp, who took over the reins of the Lions from her mother Martha Ford and Haslam, who owns the Browns along with her husband Jimmy, prior to last season.

Hamp told a story about the possibilities of women decades ago.

“When I graduated from college, I just wanted to work for the NFL. I loved football and grew up with it, ”she said. “I actually knew Commissioner Pete Rozelle. My dad took me to league meetings and I got the chance to sit next to him at dinner and we became friends and he was impressed with how new a girl was to football.

“When I graduated, I went to see him and he really tried and he liked me, but he couldn’t think of anything a woman could do in the NFL.”

That was decades ago, of course. Well, as Haslam pointed out, there are women influencing all levels of the league – from interns to boy scouts to coaches, aides, coaches, the executive office and the owner suites. In fact, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco have either female owners or women who make important decisions at the highest team level.

The league office has a similar composition at each step of the ladder.

“The mountain of women in the room who are now owners is still growing and is really exciting,” said Haslam. “There are some young women in the room which is fantastic.

“With more and more women out there doing the job at such a proficient level, it will just keep growing. Just getting your foot in the door, especially in the NFL, is what you have to start out doing. Whatever job comes your way, do it better than anyone else in the room and other options will come your way. “

Hamp noted that regardless of the job or the people involved, the lines of communication must be open. As an example, she noted that the Lions did not have dressing rooms for some women on the football team. She fixed that quickly.

“It seems little, but it’s huge,” said Hamp. “It means that you are important to us.”

“You have to have an organization where people can speak up, who can give you ideas and aren’t afraid to speak up. Listen to our staff and find out that we are all together and we all want to make this thing work. “


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