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March 1, 2021
Female empowerment is empowerment for all. It is the collective strength and confidence of many individuals that helps humankind persist, progress and endure. Earning one’s place through hard work and merit is not gender-bound. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers excel in ensuring women are represented throughout the National Football League.
Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, owner/president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation and Glazer Vision Foundation, grew up with five brothers. Her family’s mindset was rooted in capability and qualifications, not gender-based-expectations. “We feel strongly about gender equality, and that carries into the Bucs—our extended family,” Kassewitz says. “Conversations about women in the NFL need to be a thing of the past. Focus must shift to preparedness and proficiency—markers of long-term success in any profession.”
Kassewitz explains that the Buccaneers’ success is borne of its people. “We only hire the best. A person hired to work in the NFL is the best in his/her field. At this level, no one on our staff needs to be concerned with proving herself.”
Her efforts are fueled by one of her own daughters’ aspirations to coach in the NFL. When her daughter expressed shock at the fact that the Bucs boast two female coaches, it affirmed Kassewitz’ work for equality. “The Buccaneers organization is committed to providing equal opportunities to diverse people,” she says. “Diversity enables us to have the best solutions. So many girls grow up with a passion for the sport but have limited exposure to opportunities.”
Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians has proven instrumental in cultivating a culture of gender inclusivity. Paving Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ path to Super Bowl LV victory were Lori Locust, assistant defensive line coach, and Maral Javadifar, assistant strength and conditioning coach. “He’s steadfast in moving past longstanding stereotypes in the League,” Kassewitz points out. “I’m proud of what I see occurring in Tampa Bay. Our staff and players don’t look at Bucs’ female coaches any differently. Locust and Javadifar are experts in their fields and that’s what we’re all focused on.”
A sentiment shared by growing numbers of people within the NFL, Kassewitz looks forward to the seasons when female coaches aren’t anomalies. “Forty-seven percent of our fanbase is female. We have to ensure women are represented across the League.”
In 2015, the Bucs launched the Women of Red. A free fan group for the Bucs’ large female fan-base, Women of Red also organizes numerous events aimed at enabling women supporting women. “There’s something special about thousands of women getting together to watch football and network with each other,” Kassewitz says. Networking events draw women from a broad swath of fields—from arts to law and education to politics. Tampa Bay is also the only NFL team with a training camp night just for female fans. “The food and music are great, but those evenings cultivate meaningful conversations between women and our coaching staff,” Kassewitz says. “Sports bring people together.”
The Glazer Foundation is helping Tampa Bay girls’ strength and confidence hold strong, too. First in the NFL to offer an academic scholarship, the Bucs want to diminish potential barriers for girls who aspire to careers in sports. After starting the first free flag football league for underserved girls in Tampa, the Bucs now host the largest girls high school flag football event in the country. Although flag football is not a sanctioned sport until high school, the Jr. Bucs Middle School program provides free football equipment and curriculum to over 35,000 girls in the area.
“There was a void, and I’m intent on filling it,” Kassewitz says. “The playing field needed leveling and the girls shouldn’t have to wait until high school to get the experiences needed to improve their game. It’s spectacular to see them feel validated in their sport. It’s been exciting to follow these girls’ growth.”
Kassewitz’ work to level playing fields transcends gender lines. After learning that one in four children has an undiagnosed vision impairment and one in five can’t afford eye care, the Glazers started The Glazer Vision Foundation—complete with a mobile vision clinic. “Vision impairment is a silent problem, and it’s a priority for our family to help solve the crisis,” she says. “Our doctors and nurses visit 60 Title 1 schools, and the on-board lens lab gets glasses in kids’ hands the same day.”
To date, the organization has provided 100,000 eye exams and over 20,000 pairs of glasses. Everyone in Tampa can help with this mission. The Foundation’s One Share, One Pair Program donates an additional pair of glasses for every selfie taken with their super-size glasses at Armature Works. Tag @glazervisionfdn and use #OneShareOnePair.
Empowered, confident, persistent and hardworking individuals will help ensure lasting progress in the work for gender equality. Kassewitz and the entire Glazer family continues rushing toward female representation in the NFL. They are the defending Super Bowl champs, sure, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also champion gender equality rooted in merit.