Kathryn Smith Hired by Bills: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

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Kathryn Smith Hired by Bills: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction
Uncredited/Associated Press

The Buffalo Bills have announced the hiring of Kathryn Smith as a quality control assistant under head coach Rex Ryan, which makes her "the first full-time female assistant coach in NFL history."

The team announced a statement regarding the news, via Josh Reed of WIVB Sports

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk first reported the news Wednesday. Smith will report to special teams coordinator Danny Crossman.

Smith issued a statement on Thursday regarding the news, via NFL on ESPN:

"I just like the way she is," head coach Rex Ryan said Friday, per Joe Buscaglia of WKBW. "She's really all about the team and how she can help. Exceeded what we thought she'd do."

She has been part of Ryan's staff for the last seven years but never officially as part of the coaching staff. She held an administrative assistant position each of the last two seasons, and before that she worked within the New York Jets' player personnel department.

Smith's hiring is a monumental moment for gender progress in the NFL, and it's been a long time coming. Jen Welter became the NFL's first female assistant of any kind before the 2015 season, serving under head coach Bruce Arians during training camp. Her position was temporary—teams regularly hire additional assistants on a temp basis to handle the extra players in camp—but it nonetheless opened a door Smith will walk through.

Last year, the NFL also hired Sarah Thomas as the first female referee in history. She worked as a full-time official during the 2015 season. 

While this is a promising step, the NFL is not the first league to welcome women into the coaches box. The NBA has long been at the forefront of the gender equality issue. Lisa Boyer was a volunteer assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001-02, and the San Antonio Spurs hired Becky Hammon as an assistant before the 2014-15 campaign. Nancy Lieberman became the second full-time female assistant in the NBA in 2015.

In September, the Oakland Athletics made Justine Siegal the first woman to hold a coaching position with an MLB team. As it stands, the NHL is the only one of the United States' four major professional sports leagues yet to make a major step on the gender equality front. 

 

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