February 4, 2016 / 7:44 PM / 2 years ago

League creating rule to get women in executive positions

Oct 31, 2015; London, United Kingdom; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL International Series Fan Forum at the Institute of Education. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - The National Football League will create a "Rooney Rule" for women that would require teams to interview female candidates for executive positions, Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Thursday.

Goodell, in his opening remarks at the NFL's Women's Summit ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl 50, said the rule is being created to encourage female involvement at every level of the sport.

"We believe in diversity," Goodell said. "We believe that we're better as an organization when we have good people at the table."

The "Rooney Rule" was established in 2003 and requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching or senior football operation jobs.

Named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the rule was instituted in response to the small percentage of minority candidates being named to head-coaching positions.

Last July, the Arizona Cardinals made history by hiring the first female assistant coach when Jen Welter was named as the training camp/preseason intern coaching inside linebackers.

This past season, women broke further barriers in the NFL as the league hired its first full-time female game official in Sarah Thomas.

Last month, the Buffalo Bills named Kathryn Smith as a special teams assistant coach, the first full-time female coach in the league.

"You can see that progress is being made," said Goodell. "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 we are going to interview a diverse slate of candidates.

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

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes

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