An old photograph is projected on a screen at the front of a large hotel meeting room located in downtown Indianapolis. The photo shows two boys in football uniforms and a splotchy-faced little girl off to the side, almost out of the frame. She had been crying because she wanted to be in the football picture.
Years later, she is.
In fact, she's Jane Goodell – the NFL's First Lady, married to Commissioner Roger Goodell and an award-winning multimedia journalist and producer responsible for the recent NFL Films feature, "A Lifetime of Sundays," which profiles four women owners that largely helped shape the NFL as we know it. Today, she's introducing a panel of the next generation of female owners – Bucs Co-Owner and President of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation and Glazer Family Foundation Darcie Glazer Kassewitz and Buffalo Bills Owner Kim Pegula at the Careers in Football Forum. In its fourth iteration, the event is spearheaded by the NFL's Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Sam Rapoport, and it aims to help women who are looking to make a career in football get that break.
The Forum has helped 89 of those women get opportunities in scouting, coaching, operations and so many more facets of the industry. It's about broadening the candidate pool, which is something the Bucs have been doing for decades.
"Diversity is really a core value at the Buccaneers," Glazer Kassewitz said. "I feel like we've had this culture in our DNA from the beginning and with our two female coaches and the amount of women we have on the football side, this is truly our normal. They're not treated any differently. They're just coming in to do their job like everyone else and that's really important to us."
One of those participants that earned one of those opportunities is the Bucs' very own Lori Locust. As Tampa Bay's assistant defensive line coach, she's the only female position coach in the NFL. She attended the Forum for the first time in 2017 and secured an internship then with the Baltimore Ravens. After 13 years of coaching, she had the experience. She just needed more opportunity. And now, she's gone from sitting in one of the forty seats as a participant, to a panelist sitting on stage.
"You get to a level where you just want people to win," said Locust. "I think that's something through this Forum that has been incredible."
"I think what the Bucs do really well is they set the example and they walk the walk," Goodell said. "A diversity of voices is really important to them and they make that very clear to everybody, whether that be in their hiring practices, whether it be the facilities they have in stadium for fans, flag football for girls, they are leaders in that area. They are unafraid to show everybody what this kind of new world can look like when you embrace other voices."
In fact, Locust is an example of her own, serving as an ambassador for the Buccaneers in the eyes of women from all over who are in the industry. Cait Finn, inside linebackers coach at Hobart College, was admittedly first familiarized with the Buccaneers because of Hobart alum and current Bucs left guard Ali Marpet. But then, last year, Finn connected with Locust and Bucs assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadivar on social media and then realized everything the Buccaneers were doing to further women in the sport.
"I played in middle school, into high school a little bit and there was no one to look at," said Finn. "Now, it's like oh, you could actually go to college and do this. You could coach and do this. I'm decently into my professional career but I'm still a new football coach, I have people to look at and see oh, they're doing it. Yes, absolutely, chase after that. It's neat to see the Buccaneers doing that and being on the forefront of that."
The Bucs, who will host the largest high-school sanctioned girls flag football tournament in the nation this week, are leading the way in women's initiatives at every level simply by being an example. The hope is that by doing so, other teams will follow suit and women in coaching, scouting, video, production, sports medicine, journalism and executive positions will no longer be treated as news. The goal of the Forum is contradictory to itself: to no longer be needed. Because women in football will just be… normal.
"It's hard to know what it's going to look like ten years from now," said Goodell. "The pace of change has happened so fast. Two seasons ago, we would have never expected to see a woman coaching at the Super Bowl. I can't even guess what it's going to look like in a couple of years from now. It does give you hope and really plants the seed that maybe a forum like this wouldn't even be necessary at some point in the very near future; it will be the norm, there will be a diversity of voices and women will be in that applicant pool and it will just be very natural."