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In December 2021, Jennifer King made history when she was named assistant running backs coach for the Washington NFL franchise. King is the second female assistant coach in the NFL. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach Lori Locust is the first.
Born in 1984, King is a native of Reidsville, North Carolina, her professional coaching career began with coaching basketball. She is the former head coach of the women’s basketball team at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. She led the team to a national championship in 2018. King previously played football with the Women’s Football Alliance. While coaching basketball, she was introduced to former Carolina head coach Rick Rivera. After expressing her interest in coaching football, he invited her to join the team as an intern. She also completed an internship with Rivera as part of the Washington franchise. The team then hired her as an assistant running backs coach in 2021. As a black woman in a male-dominated sport, King says that a woman doesn’t feel excluded or “othered”. She feels she has earned the respect of the team.
The NFL has been criticized for its overall lack of diversity in its coaching ranks and for its treatment of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Kaepernick filed a grievance with the NFL. In the grievance, he accused owners of intentionally not giving an opportunity to play. In 2019 a settlement was reached. Under its terms, Kaepernick will never again be recruited by an NFL Team. There have also been concerns about the treatment of the league’s other black quarterbacks. King has acknowledged the NFL’s reputation regarding race and gender equity but says she sees that progress is taking place. She says, “We’re making big strides with equality in sports and women having roles in what were considered male-dominated sports.” King is excited for the opportunity to support other women who may be interested in a coaching career.
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