I am currently in Washington D.C. attending the first annual Off the Field conference. Off the Field is the official national players' wives association and I've been a member since the organization was founded several years ago. Just this week, I was chosen to sit on the organization's board of directors. I'm looking forward to helping this incredible organization continue to contribute to the lives of NFL wives as well as the communities we serve.
We had a long yet phenomenal day yesterday. Our morning began with an always interesting meeting with a benefits representative from the NFL. These meetings always go like this - the NFL rep explains all the wonderful programs in place for NFL players, then the wives usually voice their passionate concerns about how the NFL is not doing enough for players and their families. The NFL rep usually tells us that her hands are tied and there is not much the NFL can do. True to form, this is how the meeting went yesterday.
A prevalent and concerning issue is that resources abound for players while they are in the league, but once they are no longer on a team, the resources dry up and they are released into the "real world" unequipped to deal with real world issues like unemployment, job searches, etc. The NFL and NFLPA do have programs available to help players with the transition, but information regarding these programs isn't being adequately communicated to the players. There is some hope though - we had an incredible meeting at the NFLPA offices yesterday and the new president of the organization seemed sincerely interested in the issues and concerns presented by the wives. He even gave out his cellphone number and told us to call ANY TIME! It appears that he is committed to working with us to help make our players better men once they leave the NFL!
The highlight of our day though was a private tour of the White House! We were a sight to see - over 100 women making our way through the non-public entrance to the grounds. Usually the maximum number of people in a private tour at one time is around 25, and we were told that we were the largest private group tour of the White House ever!
We had an incredible tour - the Admiral - who loved supplementing the tour with his own personal stories and experiences. He told us about how he enjoys going up to the Lincoln bedroom and lifting up a velvet cover - revealing the original Gettysburg address in it's box. He told us an incredible story about how he lost one of his staff members a few weeks ago - a butler had a stroke and died. The Obamas were concerned that they weren't going to be available to attend his memorial, so they decided to have a memorial there at the White House. This has never been done before. He told the story of how Mrs. Obama invited young women to the White House for an empowerment meeting. Stars like Alicia Keyes and Lisa Leslie were there to encourage the girls and to show them that all things are possible. The guests were told to remain seated while Mrs. Obama exited the room - this is customary. What they didn't expect was for Mrs. Obama to be waiting in the hallway for the young women where she hugged every single one of them as they left. It was clear from the Admiral's stories that he is in awe of the first couple. They have clearly already made a tremendous impact on the White House and it's staff.
We were all hoping we'd catch a glimpse of the first lady (the President was en route to Mexico so there was no chance of seeing him). The Admiral would actually get calls on his cellphone from time to time alerting him to where Mrs. Obama was in the house. He said he's not doing his job properly if we ran into her. We did not run into her so the Admiral obviously did a fantastic job! Nonetheless, it was an incredible experience! I'll post pictures when I get home this weekend.