There is a consistent conversation around the lack of diversity at the coaching and executive levels of sports. These disparities are even more apparent in the National Football League (NFL), where approximately 70 percent of its players are Black, and only 14 percent of 122 hires since 2003 were not white, the Wallstreet Journal reports.

While much work is needed to increase diversity among the staff closest to the field, the NFL is making strides to ensure that diversity and inclusion are a part of the strategy.

And, where is it being implemented? Sports medicine.

A Plan For Progress

In a post, the NFL announced that it would be working with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society (PFATS) to launch the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative.

The new program will be offered to medical students at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical College.

Students from the four HBCU medical schools will have the chance to be selected by the respective college’s administration and staff to complete clinical rotations for one month with NFL teams in the upcoming football season. The initiative will host 16 students across eight NFL teams: Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, and Washington Commanders.

More Diverse Pipelines

The diversity initiative aims to increase the pipeline of diverse sports medicine practitioners and, over time, increase the number of diverse medical professionals that work with the NFL.

“Increasing diversity across every role in our league and at our clubs is essential. Diversity makes us stronger,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We have an opportunity to help increase the pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals, which is imperative for us as a league. This initiative is an example of how we can lend our platform for a societal benefit. I’m proud that our league can help inspire the next generation of sports medicine professionals.”

As a part of the students’ one-month rotations, they will observe and participate in sports medicine for NFL players. They will also work directly with primary care team physicians, orthopedic team physicians, and athletic training. The real-life experience aims to allow students to become better acquainted with specific sports guidelines related to athletes and have a basic understanding of the core elements of providing care to NFL players from varying perspectives.

While 16 students will be a part of the first cohort of students, the NFL plans to expand the number of participating students and NFL clubs within the initiative by the 2023 season.