Christine Vicari is the NFL’s senior vice president of labor finance. | NFL

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When Christine Vicari first started working in the NFL, she wasn’t sure where the league stood on LGBTQ issues. The most prominent cultural institution in America didn’t prioritize gay rights, nor did it exert much effort into reaching the LGBTQ community.

But nearly 20 years later, Vicari now knows where the NFL stands — firmly in her corner. The league has embraced LGBTQ Pride in recent years, even releasing a video stating its unequivocal support for LGBTQ fans, players and coaches. When Carl Nassib became the first active player to publicly come out as gay in June 2021, he was widely embraced.

Vicar , a member of the Outsports Power 100, can say the same about her experience. As the NFL’s senior vice president of labor finance, she touches every aspect of the league, setting the annual salary cap and working with team owners and execs. When she got engaged to her now-wife and came out to her colleagues in 2014, there was a literal line of support waiting outside of her office door.

“I had a line outside my office the next morning of people who were just completely shocked,” she told Outsports. “But overall, the word spread very quickly. It was very much the news of the week. Everyone was so amazing and so supportive, and that shifted my mindset, too, of thinking about the NFL differently.”

A lifelong athlete (she played softball in college), Vicari took a job out of college with Arthur Andersen, but the major accounting firm collapsed in the early Aughts due to its ignominious role with Enron. Shortly thereafter, her ex-manager became the external accountant for the NFL, and asked if she would be interested in joining the league’s new internal audit department.

Four years later, Vicari moved up to become the director of labor finance. The department’s duties are all-encompassing: it creates the formula that establishes the split in revenue between the owners and players, and establishes the overall economic balance of the league.

When Vicari announces the salary cap to her colleagues each year, the news always leaks seconds later.

“We are probably one of the very few departments in the NFL that gets to see the entire economic picture of the NFL,” she said. “We’re not only dealing with the national revenue that gets into the calculation, but for all 32 clubs. Working with the presidents, CFOs, the owners in some respects. It’s a collaborative effort. You get to see how the business is run.”

The NFL is quite a business. With yearly revenue approaching $20 billion, the league is only getting bigger, and seemingly heading towards complete cultural domination. Just a few weeks ago, the NFL inked a $110 million deal with NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, for the exclusive rights to just one playoff game (the league’s overall media rights package is worth over $100 billion).

“We have a media business. We have an events business, CP and sponsorship. It’s amazing to see how it all works together,” said Vicari. “I have the luxury of being able to bring it all together, and see how that results into the product on the field.”

Vicari also enjoys the luxury of working with amazing colleagues. She was the first person in the NFL to publicly come out, and is now joined by at least one another league exec, Sam Rapoport.

When Vicari got engaged, she decided to post the news on Facebook, unsure of how it would land. The reaction surpassed her best expectations.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has a gay brother, offered his congratulations. “It was pretty unbelievable,” she said.

As we’ve seen this Pride Month, supporting LGBTQ causes isn’t always easy for big businesses. Major corporations such as Anheuser-Busch and Target have been hit with threats and boycotts, and the NFL has been, too.

While the NFL could always do more, Vicari says she’s proud of the stances the league has taken.

“I don’t think you can let the hate dictate whether you stand up for what is right,” she said.

Admittedly, the league’s corporate offices are still ahead of many clubs and players. Last season, for example, Nassib was the only player who selected an LGBTQ organization (The Trevor Project) for the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative.

But that’s beginning to change, too. Nassib has played for two playoff teams since coming out, and seems poised to continue his career. In recent years, at least 61 active players, 13 owners and nine head coaches have shared their support for gay and bi athletes.

As someone who works at the highest levels of the NFL, Vicari is proud of where the league is moving. She knows it’s possible to be an out gay and highly successful NFL exec.

It’s the life she leads every day.

“Probably the reason why it took me so long to come out was that I didn’t know where the NFL stood. I now know where they stand,” she said. “Just know that I think sports are becoming very inclusive, and for someone who is in the LGBTQ community, the NFL is a place where you would feel welcomed, and it’s a place where you would feel supported.”