Photo credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers communications
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ devotion to gender diversity has been an essential element in their Super Bowl LV run and the normalization of women in football is well on its way.
Having always been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion during their family ownership of the team, Darcie Glazer Kassewitz has put even more action behind her mission in recent years. In 2019 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made history by becoming the only staff in the league with multiple full-time female coaches, Assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar.
In 2020 Billie Jean King presented the Champion for Equality Award to head coach Bruce Arians for his efforts towards gender inclusivity.
“Since taking the helm in Tampa Bay in January 2019, Arians has assembled the most gender diverse coaching staff in the NFL,” announced the Women’s Sports Foundation. “He has hired two female coaches as full-time assistants — a first within the league — and this offseason, the Buccaneers have added to their front office talent with the addition of Jacqueline Davidson as the team’s director of football research. Indicative of his belief in equal opportunity, the two-time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year has spent his career working for gender inclusivity in what is historically known to be a male-dominated sport.”
Jacqueline Davidson is known in the business as being one of the best at what she does. Prior to becoming the Buccaneers Director of Football Research, Davidson started her career in football working at the NFL League Office as an intern. Following her internship, Davidson was hired on by the NY Jets. She served as the chief negotiator of contracts which included cornerback Darrelle Revis’ $70 million contract in 2015.
After 11 years in New York, Davidson made the move to Tampa to work for the Buccaneers. “I have a running joke with my co-workers that I feel like I’ve been working here for years,” said Davidson.
Davidson is one of just a few Black women working in an NFL Front office or in an analytics role. Her advice to women and girls who might follow her path is to avoid setting limitations for yourself. “There are so many roles outside of what you see on the sidelines or on T.V. – don’t let yourself or others talk you out of these opportunities. Put a plan in place and go for it.”
Nearly 50% of the Vice President and Director-level executives in the Buccaneers organization are occupied by women. Of those includes the VP of Marketing, Nikki Donofrio. It’s estimated that 44% of NFL fans are women, so when Donofrio took the position as the VP of Marketing, it made sense to bring in a focus group of women to find out what they liked and didn’t in an effort to build camaraderie amongst women who are fans of the Buccaneers. “Football brings everyone together. Women come to the game, buy the tickets and spend time with other women.” Donofrio said.
The Women of Red is the Buccaneers’s female-focused fan club that creates a community for women to unite and share their passion for the game of football. 1,500 women attended The Women of Red training camp event that included walkthroughs and football drills on the field of their indoor practice facility. The events offer women a wide variety of interactive experiences, exclusive behind-the-scenes access, and opportunities to interact with Buccaneers players as well as current executives. Tight end Rob Gronkowski made an appearance this year which was enjoyed by all.
For Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, being a woman as well as a co-owner brings an added perspective. In 2019, Kassewitz spoke at the Womens Careers in Football Forum. The forum was started by Sam Rapoport, NFL Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion and is held in conjunction with the NFL Combine. The goal is to support the development of a talent pipeline by connecting high-potential women to career opportunities in football. The event includes panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking activities with executives and industry experts.
“For us, it’s incredibly important to know that our pool of candidates is as diverse as possible. The Buccaneers are interested in only selecting the best for each position. A full talent pool gets the best people for the job.” Said Kassewitz.
The organization views it as critical to support girls at every stage of their development. By creating the Jr. Bucs Flag Football program, which grows the game of football in more than 90 Tampa Bay middle schools and supports over 35,000 female students every year, they’ve been able to teach girls that football isn’t just a sport for boys, football is for everyone.
“Sometimes you’ll see the girls put the flag kits on and you can tell they aren’t sure what to do. By the end of the day, they’re out there fully confident, throwing the football to the boys. They see that they can do anything.” Kassewitz said.
In 2020, the organization launched the Buccaneers Girls in Football Scholarship, becoming the first NFL team to create an academic scholarship program for female high school football players planning to attend a 4-year college or university and pursue a career in sports. The scholarship is made possible through a $250,000 commitment from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation. “If a girl is playing football in high school, she shouldn’t have to choose another sport because she needed aid for college. We want her to continue.” Kassewitz said.
The Girls in Football Scholarship is just one of the many ways the organization is committed to growing the game of football. For too many women and girls with a passion for football, there’s limited exposure to the many of the opportunities that exist for them. Kassewitz feels passionate about supporting them in the quest to turn their passion into a career. This year, in conjunction with National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the applications for the scholarship will open for the second time.
By planting the seeds within their organization, they are creating change in other aspects of the league. When asked where she sees the Buccaneers organization 5-10 years down the road, Kassewitz remarked: “The dream is that there is no conversation about women having high profile positions in the NFL.”