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Condoleezza Rice
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Does Condoleezza Rice controversy reveal NFL’s sexism problem?

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the sidelines before the start of an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

It was the first time KIRO Radio host Gee Scott got really upset about sexism.

He admits that it might be sad that it’s the first time. Nonetheless, a discussion with a former NFL player about the potential of a woman coaching a football team had him shocked about attitudes lingering in 2018.

The conversation was spurred by rumors that Condoleezza Rice was being considered as a new coach for the Cleveland Browns.

The unnamed Former NFL player said there “was that there is no way that she could be a head coach in the National Football League,” Gee recalled. “I said, ‘There is no way? Why?’”

The former NFL player started to break down his career in the NFL and stated his credentials. But when it came down to it…

“The one thing he went into was that she has to relate to men and relate to what is happening on the football field,” Gee said. “Um — Condoleezza Rice has dealt with world leaders around the globe. I’m talking about leaders that were men. She is on the college playoff committee. She has been dealing with ‘men’ all her life … that part bothered me.”

But that wasn’t the part that really “broke” Gee’s heart during this exchange.

“I said, ‘OK, if the Cleveland Browns were to hire Condoleezza Rice tomorrow, could she be in charge of a team that goes out there and wins at least one or two games?’” he said. “His comment was, ‘Of course she would probably do it. She already has NFL players.’”

The logic, or lack thereof, was staggering. It’s the same issue that male coaches deal with, Gee notes. Gaining the respect and momentum of a team is something that any coach has to tackle. Especially if they have no playing experience — one criticism of Rice.

“Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll — how much NFL did they play?” Gee asked. “The answer is none.”

Condoleezza Rice has put the rumors to rest — she is not considering a role with the Cleveland Browns. But the brief rumor quickly spread across social media, news outlets, and blogs, revealing a larger issue entirely.

“There’s the basic one, like, ‘Oh, is she going to be coach of the kitchen?’ and the same joke every five tweets that you see,” said Stacy Rost with 710 ESPN Seattle. “I saw the same things happen when Sue Bird, one of the best basketball players, ever, was going to the front office of the Nuggets, and a lot of people were saying, ‘How is she qualified to do that?’”

“Even LeBron James has the utmost respect for (Sue Bird),” she added. “How can someone at the top of his game, who recognizes greatness in this sport, see someone and say ‘Wow, what a great hire’ and then you – random sports fan – has an issue with it just because she’s a woman.”

Rost explains that there is a distinction that happens among conversations about women in sports. Sexism is not about discussing qualifications of a candidate, their skills, experience, etc. Rather, many people still target the fact they are a woman and stop there. That point was evident in a press conference with Justin Dorsey, general manager for the Cleveland Browns.

“Justin Dorsey was asked what he was looking for (in a coach), and he threw in, just as a throw away at the end, that it could be a woman,” Rost said. “And someone laughed, audibly. That rubbed me the wrong way.”

“There is such an old fashioned boys club, still, in football,” she said. “And a nepotism, still, with who gets hired … I think the way, even in media, we are dismissive of that, is offensive.”

“…It just seems like a lot of this is very clearly because she’s a woman,” Rost added. “The most common argument I’ve heard is that she is not going to be able to get young men to respect her. Well, that’s a problem we have as a society. If, as a society, young men don’t respect a woman, or listen to a woman, then let’s fix that.”

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