While Bills Hire Smith, Other Women Continue to Help Run Pro Sports Teams

By Alex Peterman

The Buffalo Bills made history this week by hiring Kathryn Smith, the first female assistant coach in the National Football League. Both the Bills and Smith should be very proud of taking a proverbial step in the quest for women’s equality in professional sports. However – and this is certainly not to take away anything from this enormous feat – the attention this hire has received has appeared to overshadow other irreplaceable women that help run our sports teams.

Although she isn’t a coach, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person more instrumental to a sports organization than Katie Blackburn is to the Cincinnati Bengals. And yet, while people around the nation and outwards now know Kathryn Smith’s name, Blackburn’s reputation virtually stops once you reach Cincinnati’s city limits.


Katie Blackburn is an integral part in running the Cincinnati Bengals

In October of 2014, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that although Mike Brown still owned the team, it was Katie Blackburn, his daughter, and head coach Marvin Lewis that had essentially taken over the franchise. That hasn’t changed. In fact, Blackburn’s impact on Bengals operations has only grown as Brown has continuously loosened his fingers on the reigns of the team. People will argue that the move from Brown to Blackburn was completely due to family ties – but as an avid Bengals fan from a young age, she’s proven more than adequately prepared to propel this team to success, and it’s a success we’re living in as a fanbase.

Marvin Lewis, of course, is well-known for his accomplishments on the field, having played an integral role in the Bengals making their fifth straight playoff appearance in 2015. However, it’s Blackburn that has played an equally important role behind the scenes, running the negotiations process amid a laundry list of duties that ultimately help give Lewis the tolls he needs to succeed. Brown gets the credit as owner, Lewis gets credit for the team winning games, and Blackburn… well, the name somehow gets lost in translation along the way. So let’s congratulate the Bills and Kathryn Smith. But let’s also remember it was a trend that Katie Blackburn helped set in the first place.

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