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49ers institute 'Rooney Rule' for women, people of color in business side positions

This will help break down some barriers for women and minorities on the business side of the organization.

The San Francisco 49ers are taking an important progressive step in creating more fairness in opportunities in the front office, according to a recent ESPNW report. The organization has informed staffers that they will institute a policy of requiring at least one woman and one person of color be interviewed for business-side job. According to ESPNW, that covers approximately 75 percent of positions within the organization.

The Rooney Rule is a rule that requires teams interview at least one minority for head coach and senior football operations positions. The NFL has discussed expanding the rule to cover women and front office executive positions. According to the ESPNW, the NFL is recommending the 49ers new policy as a best practice across the league. The article focuses on women, but indicates it will apply to people of color as well.

The rule will not apply to football operations positions because the pipeline of talent is considerably less. Nonetheless this is a big step forward for creating more opportunities. In my own experience working in front offices (1 year with a minor league baseball team and four years with the Oakland A's), women often ended up working primarily in the marketing department and public relations. This will open the door for women to get a foothold in areas that have been more frequently dominated by men.

The article also discussed the Denise DeBartolo York fellowship. That program began in 2011, and until recently focused on the marketing department. According to ESPNW, the program is being adjusted to rotate women through numerous other divisions within the organization.

The article mentions that as of March, 25 percent of VP-level executives in the NFL are women, and women make up 22.9 percent of those positions at the team level. This is not going to suddenly make everything equal. There is a hell of a long way to go before women and minorities are on anything close to resembling equal footing, particularly when it comes to the business of sports. But props to the 49ers for taking a step toward trying to break down some of those barriers.