The Washington Redskins have made another historic hire with the addition of Jennifer King over the weekend.
King joined Ron Rivera, the team’s first minority head coach, and became the NFL’s first full-time Black female coach. She will be serving as a coaching intern, working with the offense and more specifically with the running backs.
It’s not a pronoun that resonates throughout the NFL. King joins rare air as she tries to climb the coaching ladder but her resume and reputation speak for itself. She has coached in the NFL, the Alliance of American Football and collegiately — most recently as an offensive assistant at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
King also has familiarity with Rivera from when she served as an intern for the Carolina Panthers during 2018 and 2019 offseasons.
“Jennifer is a bright young coach and will be a great addition to our staff,” Rivera said in a statement released by Washington. “Her familiarity with my expectations as a coach and my firsthand knowledge of her work ethic and preparation were big factors in bringing her to the Redskins.”
What Rivera and now King are bringing to Washington is the first step in a number of firsts that hopefully follow. As reported by The Athletic’s Rhiannon Walker, who initially broke the news of King’s hiring, the team has historically been behind the diversity curve:
“Washington, the last NFL franchise to integrate its roster in 1962, has now hired its first minority head coach in franchise history with Rivera and the league’s first full-time black female coach almost a month apart.”
Now it joins a handful of teams to set a new precedent around the league — one that is still, despite King’s hire, sorely lacking in the league’s 101st year.
King followed in Collette Smith’s footsteps. Smith became the NFL’s first Black female coach when she interned with the New York Jets. She worked with the defensive backs during training camp but never coached during the pre or regular season.
“We women deserve to have equality in this game because we women love it just as much if not more than the men,” Smith recently told SportsIllustrated.com.
“We women had to prove ourselves our whole life in everything we did and do. In my experience, I was welcomed with open arms by all the players and 99.9% of the coaches.”
King, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Lori Locust — an assistant defensive line coach — and Maral Javadifar — assistant strength and conditioning coach — as well as San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers are the league’s only full-time female coaches. Javadifar is a daughter of an Iranian immigrant and Sowers again made history as the first woman and openly gay coach to walk the sidelines at the Super Bowl.
Being a woman, a woman of color or an openly gay woman in the league should be accepted and celebrated; and we need to continue to point out the firsts until it becomes the norm.
"Ultimately, I would love to be a coordinator," King told Redskins Nation on Tuesday. “Now, I'm at the bottom of the food chain, but I've been moving up.”
King’s goal doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it once was. Although difficult and probably far off in the distant future, it will one day be celebrated too because it could be a woman that eventually turns a franchise around.