TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.
The three-hour event — which included players, insights into game, food, drinks and raffles — was enough to make her a fan.
"I love football, but now I love the Bucs," she said. "I've always loved college football, and this gives me a broader spectrum of what professional football is all about."
Jones was one of nearly 2,000 in attendance at the event, the third of its kind since the Bucs created the Women of RED program in 2015 as a way of "changing the way football is enjoyed by women," the team said at the time. With the program's announcement including mentions of game-day fashion tips, food and Pinterest, some criticized the effort as a sexist way to teach women about the game.
BACKGROUND: Bucs' women's outreach program sparks huge backlash.
At this year's event, Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, Glazer Family Foundation co-president, said the Bucs want to bring in female fans of all stripes.
"There are women here who have watched football, played football and loved football for their entire lives," she told the crowd. "Yet today, in 2017, there is still a myth that women aren't interested in football. And there's still a myth that women don't truly love football. Let's smash the myth here tonight."
"Football stations" gave attendees insights into the game. One station laid out the formula for offensive play calls, explaining the codes for receiver routes, offensive line formations and snap counts, among other features. Another station displayed the features on gloves and cleats worn by players at different positions. Another had scouting reports of Bucs players while game film ran; a clip of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy tackling a running back for a loss accompanied audio of a scout breaking down the swim move McCoy made to beat the offensive lineman.
Lori Farbman has been a Bucs fan since moving to the area in the early 2000s, but the 50-year-old Tampa resident hadn't been very familiar with Women in RED before going to the event. She said she liked the information provided at the football stations because they illuminated lesser-known aspects of the game.
"It's giving me a little bit of background on really what goes into the making of an NFL team," she said.
Center Ali Marpet, tight end O.J. Howard and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald spoke on a panel with former WFLA-TV anchor Gayle Sierens about their NFL experiences and the role of women in their lives.
"We just came from Jacksonville for a whole week, and I missed my wife, my kids," said McDonald, who has three daughters. "When I left the house, my daughters gave me a kiss, my wife gave me a kiss, so it encouraged me to go out there and be the best that I could be."
For lifelong Bucs fans like Lu Grant, the Women of RED party provided a fun night out to learn a little more about football and meet up with friends. Grant, a 60-year-old St. Petersburg resident, attended last year and said she plans to attend next year.
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"Just the fact that (the Bucs) made this for women, the women that love the Buccaneers, the women that are passionate about the game, that makes it special," she said. "And we like to be treated special."