The third annual Women's World Football Games began on Tuesday, and this year the New Orleans Saints became the first NFL team to be their host. During the six-day event, 220 women from 17 countries will join together to play tackle football and learn more about the sport from an array of coaches. For four days, players will do drills and learn techniques, and on the fifth day, players -- mixed together regardless of country -- get split into teams for a game.
In an interview with Black and Blue Report's Daniel Sallerson, USA Football's Samatha Rapoport revealed that, in looking for NFL teams that would be interested in hosting them, the Saints offered to do more than just host:
We reached out to several NFL clubs. There was a bunch of interest but there was no offer like the New Orleans Saints offer we received. Jason Trosclair and Chris Payton basically saying to us, 'not only do we want to host but what else can we do for you?' They really opened up their doors and provide such incredible opportunities for these women. You know Drew Brees doing a promotional video for them that was shared by tens of thousands of women across the country just by seeing Drew Brees say, 'hey we’re excited to welcome female tackle football players.' That was a first for women’s tackle football and something we’re really excited about.
Former Arizona Cardinals linebackers coach Jen Welter will also make a guest appearance, speaking on a panel about her experiences working with the team, something that Rapoport knows attendees are eager to hear. And in the bigger picture, gestures like these add to the hope that, in the future, more NFL teams will open their doors to women's football, and more women will become more involved with football in general.
Alongside Jen Welter's hiring last summer, Sarah Thomas was hired as the first female NFL official. Earlier this year, the Bills hired assistant coach Kathryn Smith. Over Super Bowl weekend, Roger Goodell announced the league would implement a Rooney Rule to ensure more women are considered for executive jobs. Obviously, these are good first steps, but major sports leagues like the NFL can and should do more for women, and this week is an encouraging sign that teams like the Saints are willing to do just that.
You can read the rest of Rapoport's interview on the Saints' website.