NFL Coach Jennifer King To Speak About Her Journey At Cornell University’s ‘Breaking Barriers’

Jennifer King, the first full-time Black woman coach in the NFL, will be the keynote speaker at a Cornell University event titled “Breaking Barriers: The First Black Woman to Coach in the NFL.”

King became a barrier breaker in 2021 when the NFL’s Washington Commanders hired her to coach the team’s running backs. She has since become a running game coordinator with the Chicago Bears, becoming the first female coach in team history; the Bears also have multiple Black men in their front office.

King will speak at the university on May 3, 2024, followed by a one-hour question and answer session, which will be followed by an opportunity to give autographs and photos.

“I am excited to welcome Coach Jennifer King to Cornell,” said Sharifa Wip, Cornell’s associate dean of students & director of Black student empowerment, in a press release. “As the first Black woman to be a full-time NFL coach, Coach King is a barrier breaker. Her resume and record of excellence in professional sports are an inspiration. We invite our students and the local community to join us for an empowering conversation.”

Ericka Rogan, the assistant director of strength and conditioning, added that King’s visit offers “an incredible opportunity for our student-athletes, coaches, and the Ithaca community to connect with a groundbreaking NFL coach.”

The conversation with King will discuss how diversity and representation are important in the world of sports and how she sees opportunities for growth in the coaching world. King is one of 12 female coaches who coach full-time in the NFL. She began as a coaching intern with the Carolina Panthers in 2018 after meeting then-head coach Ron Rivera at the NFL’s Women’s Forum. When Rivera left to coach the Commanders in 2020, King followed. 

In 2021, King reflected on what representation has meant to her, crediting San Francisco 49ers assistant Katie Sowers for showing her it was possible for women to coach in the NFL. She told that she wanted to pay that forward to other coaches who follow in her footsteps.

“Representation means so much,” King told ESPN. “It’s really important right now to be a good representative, what I didn’t have growing up. I didn’t have anyone that looked anything like me working. To be able to see that, I think, is big. It’s super cool to be a part of this.”

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