Women at the Super Bowl: A brief history of football’s pioneering women

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At the 2021 Super Bowl, three women wrote their way into the history books: referee Sarah Thomas and Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coaches Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust.

Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl, serving as a down judge. Thomas, who just completed her sixth season as an NFL referee, has achieved many “firsts” throughout her career, including becoming the NFL’s first full-time female official in 2015.

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Also on Sunday, Buccaneers assistant coaches Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust became the first female coaches to win a Super Bowl. (They also were just the second and third women to coach a team in the Super Bowl.)

Thomas, Javadifar, and Locust join a growing list of pioneering women in football. Here’s a look at a few of the other women who have led the way in the NFL:

In 1987, Gayle Sierens became the first woman to ever call play-by-play of an NFL game

On December 27, 1987, Gayle Sierens became the first woman to ever call play-by-play of an NFL game when she was in the booth for NBC’s broadcast of the Seattle Seahawks-Kansas City Chiefs. However, 30 years would pass until a second woman – Beth Mowins – followed in Sieren’s footsteps.

Michele Tafoya recently sat down with Sierens to discuss her experience in the booth and why she only ever called one NFL game. The interview was released last month in NBC’s “Sports Uncovered” podcast.

In 1997, Amy Trask became the chief executive of the Oakland Raiders, the first woman to hold that role in the NFL

Trask, who went on to work for the Raiders for nearly 30 years, recently spoke about her experience in this episode of Football is Female:

In 2020, Katie Sowers – an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers – became the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl

Sowers, who was also the first openly gay coach in the NFL, discussed her career in this 2018 episode of Football is Female.

In January 2021, Jennifer King was promoted to assistant running backs coach of Washington, making her the first Black woman to serve as a full-time NFL coach.

On Tuesday, King joined Brother from Another to discuss her journey to becoming the first Black female coach in the NFL:

A longer list of pioneering women in the NFL can be found here. The full series of Football is Female episodes can be found here.

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