NFL to implement Rooney rule for Women, Goodell confirms

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NFL teams will have to interview women for vacant executive positions, commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Thursday.

Goodell confirmed the league is to introduce an initiative modelled on the "Rooney rule" that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coach and high-level front office openings.

Prior to the rule taking effect in 2003, there had been only seven minority head coaches in league history. Ten have been hired since then, and five are currently active, including Ron Rivera of the NFC champion Carolina Panthers.

"You can see that progress is being made," Goodell said at the NFL's Women's Summit.

"And our commitment is we have something called the Rooney Rule, which requires us to make sure when we have an opening, that on the team or the league level, that we are going to interview a diverse slate of candidates.

"Well we're going to make that commitment and we're going to formalise that we, as a league, are going to do that with women as well in all of our executive positions. Again, we're going to keep making progress here and make a difference."

The move to expand awareness of female candidates for front-office jobs comes in the midst of a push by the NFL in recent years to open more doors to women.

Goodell appointed multiple women to executive roles in the league office in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal two years ago, while Sarah Thomas was hired as the NFL's first full-time female game official prior to the 2015 season.

Jen Welter served as a coach for the Arizona Cardinals during training camp; and the Buffalo Bills last month hired Kathryn Smith as the league's first full-time female assistant coach.

The latest racial and gender report card issued by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport last September gave the NFL only a C plus for gender hiring practices, compared to an A for racial hiring, though it noted the league's numbers are improving.

There were 31 women at the vice-president level or above in the league office entering the 2015 season. Among the 32 teams, there were 67 women in vice-president positions.