By Ken Reed

Yes, Tom Brady is amazing. Ten Super Bowls and seven victories. Crazy stuff.

But society was the biggest winner in Super Bowl LV.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the most progressive professional sports organizations in the country. A lot of credit has to go to head coach Bruce Arians.

In 2015, Arians, then the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, hired Jen Welter to be the first woman to hold an NFL coaching position. At Tampa Bay, he filled the three most important positions on his staff with Black men — offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. In addition, assistant head coach and running game coordinator Harold Goodwin is also Black.

It doesn’t stop there. The Bucs are the only NFL team to have two full-time female assistant coaches — assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar. Moreover, in the football operations front office, Tampa Bay employs two additional women, Jacqueline Davidson as the team’s director of football research, and Carly Helfand as a scouting assistant.

“If you can teach, you can coach. As far as the women, it was time. It was time for that door to be knocked down and allow them because they’ve been putting in time, and they’re very, very qualified. The ones we have are overly qualified.

“As far as race, that was not by design. Those are the best coaches I know. But to hear voices in a staff meeting that aren’t the same, don’t look alike, but they all have input, you get better output.”

Wow, that’s some pretty enlightened thinking for a 68-year-old white man in a historically conservative male-dominated industry.

Last October, Arians won the Champions of Equality Award from the Women’s Sports Foundation for his work fostering inclusion and commitment to growing participation for females in football.

“It’s not done because of an initiative. It’s who BA is and has always been. I think that’s why it works so well here is that he’s gathered individuals that he knows will benefit the organization. He has talent. He has people he can trust around him. And it doesn’t matter what we look like. He’s put together that staff because it’s people that he feels will help the team win.

“Clearly, that combination has worked. … And hopefully it will set an example for the rest of the league to kind of take notice and stop being maybe so narrow in their candidate search.”

Arians recognizes that the talent pool is much larger when it expands beyond white men. Approximately 35% of Americans are white males. Looking for talent among the remaining 65% of the population gives Arians and Tampa Bay an edge.

The NFL is a copycat league. So, here’s hoping Tampa Bay’s dominant Super Bowl win over Kansas City will open the eyes of NFL owners and executives to the benefits of finding the best people for the job — no matter their race or gender.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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