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NEW YORK –  The NFL announced last night that, starting in 2012, the league will allow women to play.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement to a group of reporters outside the NFL headquarters in New York City early Wednesday evening. He said he hoped the decision to include female players would convey the NFL’s more “feminine” and “progressive” sides.

“Times are changing,” said Goodell, “the military is about to allow women into combat.   If women are going to be fighting on the battlefield, how can we stop them from participating in football.  It’s not fair  The NFL is open to all players now – regardless of gender.”

According to the new rule book, each NFL team must be composed of equal parts male and female players. Of those female players, 75 percent must be active at all times, and every active female player must touch the football at least once during a game.

Feminists are applauding Goodell and the NFL.  They have long accused the National Football League of being sexist and bigoted. Fairness on the Field, a women’s rights group in Chicago who once sued the NFL for discrimination, has been lobbying the league to change its gender policies for decades. They are counting the NFL’s co-ed rule as a major victory.

“We couldn’t be more ecstatic,” said Kate Hohner, the group’s president. “The National Football league was once considered a bastion of masculinity. That women can now participate in it is a huge step for gender equality.”

According to sources inside the NFL, the so called “co-ed rule” will take effect at the beginning of the 2012 season. That means that the upcoming Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers will be the last NFL Championship played by all-male teams.

The league will hold an NFL combine for women in April, said one NFL spokesman.

Deloris Green, a 30-year-old weightlifter from Marietta, Georgia, is planning to tryout as a walk-on running back for the Atlanta Falcons.

“I’m gonna get out there and show those guys what a real lady can do,” said Green, who clocks an impressive 4.50 on the 40-yard dash and can squat press 350 lbs. “If they could draft a sissy-boy like Tom Brady into the league, there’s no reason they wouldn’t pick a woman like me.”

Despite its overwhelming acceptance amongst women, the NFL’s decision to go co-ed does not sit well with some the league’s male fans. These NFL purists feel that football is inarguably a man’s sport.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” said Jon Bovary, an irate football fan and male chauvinist from Detroit. “Once they let women play in the NFL, they’re going to have to let everyone play – children, animals, midgets, inanimate objects. Where will they draw the line?”

Overall, the new co-ed rule has received positive reactions from the league’s corporate sponsors.

In support of the rule change, the Reebok Corporation has partnered with the National Football League to launch their “Beauty and Grace Factor,” a line of pads and jerseys made exclusively for female football players.

Riddell, the equipment company that provides helmets and supportive undergarments to the NFL, will also produce a line of jockstraps and athletic cups designed for women.

According to a poll taken by National Football League, over 88 percent of active players say they approve of new rule change. However, they did raise some relevant concerns.

“Will we have to share our locker rooms with the female players?” said Steelers quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger. “Because if we do, that’s totally cool with me!”

This will be the last all-male Super Bowl… so enjoy it!