United WE’s Champion Breakfast took a hard look at diversity in the NFL

Champion Breakfast. // Courtesy of United WE

United WE hosted their annual Champion Breakfast at Arrowhead Stadium on April 28th. Since 1991, United WE has been working to aid in the advancement of women of all ages. 

WE host their champion breakfast to fundraise for its nonprofit. This year, those attending could hear from Dasha Smith, Sam Rapoport, and Kimmi Chex, all of whom hold different NFL positions.  Other speakers included Mark and Kathy Donovan, United WE President & CEO Wendy Doyle, and Missouri Governor Mike Parsons. 

Mark Donovan, President of the Kansas City Chiefs, spoke briefly about the NFL Draft coming to Kansas City and what it meant to accept it five years ago, “Trust us. Trust us to show you what this city can be.” says Donovan when asked about how he sold KC to officials five years ago. Donovan also stated that the draft was bringing in “hundreds of millions of dollars” to KC. 

But where did that money go?

Since the draft rolled into KC, local businesses have spoken out about how the weekend went for them. Many small businesses took a large hit over the weekend, raising the question of how we plan to protect those same businesses when the World Cup comes to town. Especially with that being a much longer event, spanning over a month. If we are going to open up our city to such large sporting events we need to foresee how it is going to affect those who own small businesses and the city in general. 

Smith, Rapoport, and Chex were the highlight of the event. Three women working in a male-dominated field speaking about their experience on such a big stage drew attention to what United WE is there to do. 

Sam Rapoport, NFL Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, spoke to the attendees about why she felt so strongly that the NFL should be expanding their women-to-men employee ratio. “47% of our fanbase is women,” says Rapoport. “Why isn’t that reflected on the sidelines?” 

The three women spoke at length about the NFL Women’s Forum which is something the NFL started so that women who work in the sports industry can all gather in a room and network with teams in the league. What started as one team in the nation attending this forum has now led to all 32 teams in the NFL attending and competing for all of the talents that these women bring to the table. 

All three of the women are mothers and spoke about the challenges that women face when it comes to balancing their family and their career. 

Dasha Smith, NFL EVP & Chief Administrative Officer, is a mother of teenagers and prior to working at the NFL was a lawyer. After just three weeks of having her son, she went back to work because she was afraid of losing her job. After having her daughter she didn’t extend that time by much, returning to work only six weeks after because of the same concern. 

“We need to work on lifting women up when they’re on leave,” says Rapoport, “instead of making her feel like she was going to lose her spot or be left out.” 

“I don’t want to put my family in the backseat for my career,” says Chex, who is currently the only woman with a child at her LA studio, “I can do both.” 

When asked what the NFL looks like moving forward, Smith says, “Complete gender equity or as close to that as possible.” She then went on to speak about how companies can be better about addressing the inequality in their own workplaces, “Know your policies, be intentional, and don’t be afraid to talk about it.” 

While this event was well-intentioned and the women speaking on behalf of the NFL were touching on topics that were hopeful in regard to the future of the organization, a lot of it felt tuned out by the presence of Mike Parson. 

Due to Governor Parson’s tight schedule, a clock was ticking down to mark how much time speakers had during the event. Putting so much importance on the availability of a politician who has not advocated for women during his time in office raised some eyebrows about who this event was really for—as his comfort and priority seemed oddly prioritized. 

Despite its downfalls, United WE marked this as the most successful event of its kind in history, raising over $300,000 for the organization. To find out more about United WE and their work with closing the gap of inequality, visit their website.