Day 1 kicked off with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement that the league will institute a Rooney Rule for women when it comes to all NFL executive positions. This was followed by guest speakers Condoleezza Rice and Billie Jean King.
The highlight of Day 2 was an interview with Serena Williams, hosted by Robin Roberts.
The two-day event was spectacular and will be difficult to one-up moving forward. Houston (home to the next Super Bowl) … you’re now on the clock!
The summit was about messages.
Serena Williams has done great things.
One could argue Williams, regardless of gender, is the best athlete of our generation.
What she has been able to achieve in tennis is remarkable, including how close she came to completing a calendar year Grand Slam last season.
Leading up to the 2015 US Open, many felt there was not enough buzz or excitement surrounding Serena, considering she was on the cusp of achieving something that has not been done since 1988 by Steffi Graf.
The Saturday morning of her championship match, I hosted my sports talk radio show on ESPN NY, and threw out the question: If it were an American male tennis player, one match away from a calendar-year Grand Slam, would it be the SportsCenter lead?
Listeners who called in felt that sexism and racism played a role in that day’s top storyline not reaching the front page.
I was able to ask Williams if she was just as frustrated as her fans, leading into that final major of the season and not receiving the attention one would anticipate.
Her response: “I disengaged that week.” Williams wasn’t aware what network was or was not making her the top story.
“I don’t play tennis for recognition; being recognized is not important,” she said. “What matters is how I can help people.”
In fact, she quoted Uncle Ben, Peter Parker’s (aka Spiderman) surrogate father, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Serena has embraced that responsibility in how she lives her life.
In discussing her body image — #StrongIsBeautiful — she said, “love who you are and be you.”
Serena is one of five sisters who were always told to “be strong women, to believe in yourself, play harder, work harder and be fierce.”
Williams doesn’t know what the future holds for her after tennis — possibly launching a new fashion company, or more charity work.
She does plan to represent the United States at the Rio Olympics, looking to win her fifth gold medal.
The first NFL Women’s Summit came to a close with one of the most successful female athletes in sport. Her message was strong, beautiful and fierce, exactly what the summit is hoping girls aspire to be on the playing field and in corporate America.
Once again … Houston, you’re on the clock to make next year’s women’s summit even bigger and better than Super Bowl 50.