Football has always been regarded as a “man’s game” but it seems like young women across the country are trying to make their way into the NFL not only as coaches and referees but as players. There have been two recent college football scholarships given to female players. One went to kicker Becca Longo out of Adams State on a Division II scholarship and the other went to safety Antoinette Harris who received a scholarship to play at Bethany College, a NAIA college football program.
These young women may be the first of their kind but they are certainly not the last. According to a 2016 study by Business Insider and the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are 2,000 girls playing football, the second-highest mark ever recorded and it is only on the rise. Jennifer Welter, a former assistant coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals, started a program called Grrridiron Girls, a flag-football program for young girls to experience and participate in all levels of the sport.
Critics of these young women believe that they are in danger of concussions and other damage, similar to the issues many men in the NFL are facing. But if women are being told they should stop playing because of concussions, then men should too. Others believe that these girls can play, but should play for a women’s pro league like the LFL (Legends Football League) — which some girls are wary of. Auburn Roberson, a quarterback and middle linebacker for the Haines Middle School team, said to ESPNW, “It’s alright, the uniforms kind of throw me off [though]. If it was more like the NFL, I’d probably like to play.”
Of course a young girl doesn’t want to prance around in this bikini-style league. There is barely any official play of this team other than the televised championship every year and why would she play in this league if she is more than qualified and prepared to play in a league with male teammates? These women are college football players on NCAA and NAIA teams, why would they want to change to a new league with all new rules?
There are still those who believe that these girls won’t be accepted and will be ostracized by their male teammates, but as Longo’s coach said to his players in the Bleacher Report, “Becca is a football player. That’s it. You will treat her like any other teammate and welcome her on to our team.”
With the women’s movement and other feminist ideals that are ingrained in our modern society, it is no surprise that these young women are inspired to be a part of male-dominated sports. The NFL has been pretty open to this by welcoming flag football teams, and The New York Times stated that female participation increased by 47 percent in these programs. However, the NFL still has a long way to go to accept these players not just on the field but on the sidelines as well. With the times changing and the views of gender roles slowly blurring, it wouldn’t be wishful thinking to see someone like Longo or Roberson dressing for a professional football team in the next ten years.