Samantha Rapoport of USA Football was a guest on Tuesday's edition of the Black and Blue Report. Below is a transcript of her interview with Daniel Sallerson.
Tell me a little bit about this event, especially it being here in New Orleans. What can we expect the next five days?
We have 220 women from 17 countries across the globe that play tackle football. They’ll be coming together for one time in a year on a football field to learn the sport of football from USA Football’s Heads Up Football coaches. This is the third year that this event has taken place but the New Orleans Saints are the fist team in the history of women’s tackle football to host an event like this, so they’re about to acquire 220 new fans that are about to embrace this team for opening its doors to women from all over the world.
I’ll get to New Orleans hosting in a second. I think this is the third annual event, how did this event get started?
So the event got started, there was the first ever women’s world tackle championship in 2010 that kind of took place as the Olympics of women’s tackle football, the second took place in 2013. There was a big talent discrepancy between the Americans and the rest of the world because we had access to the greatest coaches in the world and internationally they don’t. The idea sparked on the field in Finland in 2013 to create kind of a field of dreams for women’s tackle football. One place where females from all over the World can participate in the sport of football together. It’s not USA vs. Germany or Russia or what have you. It’s just everyone playing together and the only way they are identified by their countries is by a sticker on their helmet. Otherwise everyone is intertwined by positional groups and they’re learning the language of football together on one field.
Such a great event. How did New Orleans get the pleasure of hosting this event?
We reached out to several NFL clubs. There was a bunch of interest but there was no offer like the New Orleans Saints offer we received. Jason Trosclair and Chris Payton basically saying to us, 'not only do we want to host but what else can we do for you?' They really opened up their doors and provide such incredible opportunities for these women. You know
Without question. I think New Orleans Saints are paving the way and I think other clubs will see the media that is garnered for this event and how this event affects so many women’s lives that are as passionate as or more passionate about football than men. I think this will open opportunities not only for this event but for other events and from an even broader perspective than that, just the opportunity for females to be involved in the NFL. We saw this year with Jen Welter, Sarah Thomas and Catherine Smith and those numbers and names will keep increasing after events like this are completed.
How much has women’s football, I guess, how popular has it become in the last few years? How much has it grown in the last couple years?
It’s growing exponentially. Really it started in the year 2000 so we’re a very young sport. With the first ever women’s tackle football championships, we have a team USA now with 45 of the best tackle football players in the world are definitely in this country. The media took hold of that and there was a lot of coverage around it and since then our numbers have been growing. There’s about 120 or so teams in the U.S. that play tackle football and there’s about 25 countries in the world that participate in female tackle football.
You mention Jen Welter is going to be a guest. She is the first female NFL coach. Also have Jamie Meeks, Saints director of sports nutrition. What will they be doing and how does it impact the women that are here to have them as special guests and be able to talk to them?
We’ll have Jen Welter, we’ll also have Katie Sowers, who is a team USA member who was the first coach of the East West Shrine Game with Charlie White. The two of them will be sitting on a panel together and women are really going to see how they can integrate in the sports world when they’re too old to play. I think that Jen is a role model for many of these women internationally especially who saw her story and never met her. There was a lot of excitement garnered around her appearance so she’ll be speaking to the group for about an hour to talk about her experience with the Arizona Cardinals and then she’ll be coaching out on the field with the linebackers.
This is pretty good timing. There was a female NFL coach last year and now coming to this event, it’s pretty good timing and also pretty cool to see how Jen has kind of broken the mold in the NFL. Do you think that will also inspire other women that they could coach in the future?
Without a doubt. I think a lot of members of our team USA have started coaching not just because of Jen, previously. We have a head coach of a boys high school team that’s coming out. We have a few head coaches around the country and we have an all-female officiating crew coming out to ref games on Sunday. I think that’s something that was sparked by women seeing Sarah Thomas on the sidelines and saying, 'Hey, I can look like a NFL ref and I can do this.’ I think a lot of female empowerment that’s sparred around both of those people.