AP Pro Football Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- From pink baseball bats, cleats and wristbands on Mother's Day to pink caps, gloves and even penalty flags throughout October, professional sports organizations have recognized women for years by changing their colors to support breast cancer awareness.
Sports vendors take it a step further, targeting women as customers. Just look at the broad range of products for women found in any retail store that sells team merchandise. Considering females comprise 45 percent of NFL fans and 43 percent of Major League Baseball fans, that's smart business.
But women play an even greater role in sports, specifically in the past, present and future lives of athletes.
Troy Vincent, the NFL's senior vice president of player engagement, says women are the most influential person in the athlete's life cycle -- from the first time a player steps on the field until retirement. And Vincent is working to recognize women for the important roles they play in the daily personal and professional lives of players and their families.
"Women are more than fans or consumers," said Vincent, a five-time Pro bowl cornerback during a 15-year NFL career. "They're our mothers. They're our wives. They're our daughters. They're our sisters. They're CEOs, entrepreneurs, influencers and decision makers. They're extremely important to the NFL family."
Vincent has developed the women's resource initiative aimed at engaging wives, significant others and moms in areas of career, health and safety, wellness and lifestyle. The goal is to provide the tools and resources necessary to assist women and their families as they progress through an athlete's career.
Vincent launched the campaign Friday on the NFL's player engagement Web site at: www.nflplayerengagement.com/WRI. The site aims to connect women, share resources, promote service offerings, encourage peer-to-peer relationships, public appearances, private initiatives, and other opportunities.
"The women's resource initiative is going to provide an outlet for women like me, it's going to be a place where we are one," said Bianca Wilfork, wife of New England Patriots five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "We can share, discuss, debate and empower each other. At the end of the day, our men give everything to their job and as their support system, whether you're a wife, mom or girlfriend, you want to have the tools and the know-how and the support to be the woman you need to be in their lives."
Bianca Wilfork says she handles everything in the household, which includes three children. She pays the bills, plans trips, appearances and speaking engagements and runs their foundation. She also goes to all her husband's games home and away.
"When it comes to Vince, our family and his career," she said, "I do everything except go to his meetings and suit up for football."
Through the women's resource initiative, Bianca Wilfork has a new forum to interact and perhaps even inspire other wives, significant others and moms.
"We want to ensure that our athletes and the women in their lives are informed and are able to access the resources, tools and benefits that are available to them, their family members and their local community," Vincent said. "In most households, studies show the woman is the primary decision-maker and a key influencer, so we want a more formal and consistent platform to engage this audience."
On the web: www.nflplayerengagement.com/WRI
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