Student dreams of bringing inclusion to the NFL

Nikki Green, a senior sport and recreation management major, will start an internship with the MLB’s youth program in New York City this summer. | MAGGIE LOESCH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

At 12 years old, Nikki Green wanted to be the first woman to coach in the NFL.

She was always a passionate athlete as a child and said she loves the way sports connect people.

“Sport is a universal language,” she said. “You can always find common ground with someone, even if you’re fighting with them.”

She played softball and basketball while growing up, and also managed her high school football team in Montclair, New Jersey. The team won back-to-back championships during that time.

Ten years later as a senior sport and recreation management major, she wants to one day work to bring inclusion for marginalized groups to the NFL.

This summer, Green will intern for a year with the MLB’s youth program in New York City. The youth program includes several initiatives that bring younger fans to games and offers social support, like after-school tutoring.

For her, working with the youth program relates to her own obstacles as a child. When Green was in the fourth grade, she was diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disability that can cause difficulties in reading, writing and pronouncing words.

“I had no idea how to overcome it,” Green said. “I was lucky in fifth grade to have a teacher who was doing a master’s in specialized education with a focus on dyslexia, and she helped a lot.”

As a career goal, Green ultimately wants to bring diversity to the NFL because football is her favorite sport.

While other leagues like the NBA promote international diversity, the MLB is the only one to have a department dedicated to inclusion and social responsibility. This department ensures that the MLB addresses issues like LGBTQ discrimination or bullying of any form.

“MLB has taken a proactive stance in adding more diversity and inclusion initiatives to their hiring practices,” Green said. “The NFL has not made these kinds of strides and does not have a diversity and inclusion director on their team as of yet.”

Green said she hopes to one day oversee the creation of such a department in the NFL.

“The MLB has a lot of internal inclusion, and the NFL has no one from the headquarters taking the same type of initiatives [to her knowledge,]” Green said.  “My goal is to do it for the NFL.”

Green encountered challenges with her disability first hand. While in high school, she decided to work harder, even though she faced difficulties while learning.

“One day I woke up and took the initiative,” Green said. “I realized I had to change it. In my junior year of high school, I…did not take a lunch so I could fix my GPA. This was really hard.”

Since then, Green never earned anything short of a B in her classes. But she also credits the support of professors and staff in the Disabilities Resources and Services office.

Among the jobs she had while studying at Temple, Green worked for Temple football as the student equipment manager. She worked 80 hours per week including her job with the football team, classes and homework.

Green said she was thankful for the help she’s received from her teachers in her time at Temple.

“I just had really great teachers since I’ve been at TU,” Green said. “They were really supportive. I wouldn’t be where I am as a woman without them, being able to take full advantage of my opportunities.”

Green also received support from DRS through the Charlotte W. Newcombe Scholarship, which is awarded to students with disabilities who have documented financial need.

Vanessa Dash, the student services coordinator at DRS, met Green when she came to the department to seek resources for her learning disability.

“She’s her own biggest self-advocate,” Dash said. “She stands out with how she’s driven, and she motivates herself despite how life can be rough sometimes.”

Green spent this semester interning with USA Football, the governing body for amateur American football, in Indianapolis. USA Football holds youth football camps across the country.

For Green, this was a step toward her goal of bringing more diversity and inclusion to sports.

At USA Football, Green created youth and high school football online education courses, wrote posts for the organization’s coaching blog and assisted in implementing a learning management system that USA Football will use next year.

For the education courses, Green helped design a curriculum on USA Football’s website to ensure young players are taught safety skills, like how to properly tackle.

“During my time at USA Football, I learned a lot about the battle to make the game of football more safe from the youth to the professional level through safe tackling and better coaching,” Green wrote in an email. “It was a great experience that gave me a full perspective on what the NFL is looking to do to protect the game and the amazing initiatives and strategies USA Football has in place.”

In her role with the MLB’s youth program, Green will tackle the league’s problem with aging fans. Its youth program works to bring young fans to the league through the combined initiatives of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and the youth academies of nine MLB franchises, including the Philadelphia Phillies. These youth academies help kids through after-school tutoring.

“Sports gave me a greater purpose and something to work toward even when it felt impossible,” Green said.

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UPDATE: This article has been updated with new information. 

Sylvain Batut
Sylvain can be reached at sylvain.batut@temple.edu. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews.

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