This excerpt from You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League by Amy Trask with Mike Freeman is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit www.triumphbooks.com/AmyTrask.
Some very prominent men—some of whom are in the Hall of Fame, some of whom were or still are associated with the Raiders, and some of whom never were—attempted for years to get Al [Davis] to fire me. I know this because Al told me. He would giggle as he told me of the former coach, the former personnel executive, and a number of others who periodically urged him to get rid of me.
Yes, Al giggled.
Was some of that resistance gender based? I don’t know. I never spent any time considering whether or not it was. Over the years, a number of men and women I respect have shared with me that they did and they do believe that such resistance was gender based. Somewhat recently, a few tremendously accomplished, successful women shared with me experiences they had with one of these men in particular, experiences which astonished me and which most certainly suggest gender bias. If this man communicated to these women that they weren’t welcome in meetings in which their male counterparts were welcome and that they were not qualified to do their jobs because of their gender, then it’s certainly plausible to think that he may have held the same views about me. So some of this resistance may have been gender-based. But if gender was the cause of such resistance, would I have changed my approach or conducted myself any differently? I am certain that the answer to that question is no.
I have been told that I should have expressed an objection or protested any time I perceived a gender-based slight. The best protest is to succeed. My time and energy was best spent focusing on doing my job as best I could.
Many people are surprised when I tell them that I never experienced what I believed to be any gender-based resistance from players, whether Raiders or those on other teams. Although others find this surprising, I do not. Players evaluate their teammates and others on performance. Are you blocking your man? Are you covering your receiver? Are you doing your job? Of course I recognize that Raiders players were aware of my working relationship with Al and the confidence he had in me, but that was not the case with all players throughout the league and yet they too accepted me without regard to gender. When I left, I was touched by how many former and current players contacted me—far more than I would ever have imagined.
One incident in which my gender was alluded to stands out, perhaps because I was surprised by the hypocrisy of it. Sometime not too long after DeMaurice Smith was first elected head of the players’ association, he and a group of union employees visited our facility to meet with our players. DeMaurice wished to speak with Al, but Al was unavailable and he asked me to greet DeMaurice in his stead.
As I approached DeMaurice, one of the men in his group stepped between us, in what was an obvious effort to block me from DeMaurice and to keep me from speaking to him. As he inserted himself between us, this union employee asked: “Whose secretary are you?” Now this was 2009 or 2010. But whether it was 2009 or 2010, it was not 1940 or 1950. Whose secretary are you?