American history and sports history go hand in hand. Unfortunately, two biting issues have resounded in the sports world for most of this history: racism and sexism. However, many landmark occurrences have paved the way for an all-encompassing acceptance of all genders and races within the world of sports.
In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke down the walls of discrimination and became the first African American to play baseball professionally in the United States.
Since the turn of the 20th century, olympic sporting events for women have become less and less male-oriented. Over forty events have become available for women in disciplines ranging from weightlifting to boxing to table tennis.
The founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Coubertin, put it best:
“All sports must be treated on the basis of equality.”
Breaking Through the Gender Barriers
Fast forward to the present day. Progress has been made once again in the sports world as Jennifer Welter became the first female coach in the NFL, representing the Arizona Cardinal’s inside linebackers.
Jen Welter never settled and never caved to the sexist bullshit she’s faced in her lifetime. Possessing a long list of achievements, Welter’s biggest successes include earning a Master’s degree in sports psychology and creating an impressive football resume.
Still under the age of 40, Welter’s played football for semi-pro women’s leagues going on 15 years. Her standout abilities have helped guide the Dallas Diamonds to four Women’s Football Alliance championship victories.
At a height of 5’ 2’’ and a weight of 130 pounds, Welter doesn’t let her size transpose to intimidation. It’s no surprise that she played with the boys and held down a full-contact, non-kicking position in a men’s indoor league. Welter was the first woman running back for the Champions Indoor Football League, proudly playing for the Texas Revolution.
On top of being a phenomenal athlete, Jen Welter is extremely motivational. She caters especially, but not exclusively, to young women. At a recent press conference, she said:
“It shows them that anything is possible, and that’s so beautiful. To me, unfortunately, I think the hardest thing in our society right now — no offense — is the media. We [tell] little girls all the time to be beautiful and to do it all the wrong ways. We show them as accessories, for no other better way to put it. We teach them very early on to be pretty, marry well and then act badly, and you’ll get on TV. And then that’s what they grow up thinking that fame is, or success is. I want little girls to grow up knowing that when they put their minds to something, when they work hard, that they can do anything regardless of those things.”
Check out the full interview here.
Furthermore, Welter posses true merit for her current coaching position. An aura of credibility and leadership skills engulf her. But don’t take my work for it. Cardinals head coach, Bruce Arians, vouches for her and proves that this is by no means a publicity stunt. Arians proudly said that:
“Coaching is nothing more than teaching. One thing I have learned from players is, ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, man, I’ll listen.’ I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her.”
Although the above quote was stated while Welter was still interning, her qualifications have segued her into a modern position that will breed rapid growth and understanding through equality.
Society Will Change, Equality Will Reign
Kara Swisher shines as a perfect example. She motivates women to rise to the top of the tech industry and advocates for a well-rounded and diverse industry. Based on the way she approaches public relations, Kara Swisher has no problem calling out the sexist and racist tendencies within the tech industry and Silicon Valley.
In a Wall Street Journal article, Swisher stated that she primarily attributes laziness as the backbone to these misogynistic attitudes, and stands as a voice of reason within the tech field for women and minorities. Advocates such as Swisher won’t let us forget how important it is for men to remember that they play a major role as well. Men must do their part to promote gender equality in the workplace and in the world in general.
Society needs change and so does the professional sports industry. The decision for the Cardinals to hire Jen Welter is not only a step in the right direction, it’s a giant leap for equality. It literally opens up an equal playing field.
While change has blossomed and society is becoming more open to women in previously deemed “men’s” sports, one thing — or rather, one person — is ultimately responsible for this landmark advancement in American Football.
Jen Welter has risen to the top and this type of earned glory won’t go unnoticed. Her updated Twitter bio is pure gold. It reads:
“Arizona Cardinals Coach. MS Sport Psychology. PhD. 1st Female coach in the NFL. yes, anything is possible.”
Featured photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil via flickr.com