I know you all usually come here for my fantasy football advice. Maybe it’s for a kicker’s horoscope or which defense I think is the best streamer for the week. We’re headed face-first into the off-season though, and while I enjoy playing in dynasty leagues, I’m not quite comfortable giving advice on them. Instead, I’m bringing you a little something different in the coming weeks. We’re going to spotlight the women that are making waves in the National Football League. The female pioneers who are paving the way for many more to come. The women that have crashed through that glass ceiling and never looked back. So, without further ado – Article One in the series: Sarah Thomas.
There is a myriad of women I could highlight in this first article. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two female coaches, and the Kansas City Chiefs have two women on the athletic training team. Six of the eight teams that have female coaches made it to the playoffs. (Don’t worry, this series will talk about all of them.) Last year Katie Sowers made history by being the first female coach in a Super Bowl game with the San Francisco 49ers. This year, another piece of history will unfold in front of us. Sarah Thomas will be the first female ever to officiate a Super Bowl game. In back-to-back years, parents and guardians can look at their little girls and say, “Look, there’s a woman with on-field duties at the Super Bowl.”
A true pioneer
Making history isn’t new to Sarah Thomas, who has many firsts under her belt. She was the first woman to officiate a major college football game, a bowl game, and in a Big Ten stadium.
Sarah’s first step to making history started in 1996 when she attended a Gulf Coast Football Officials Association meeting (I was three years old, ha!). Four years later, Thomas officiated her first varsity high school football game. After that, she continued to break through barriers, honing her craft. Her hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed. In 2006, she was hired to the USA Conference, and in 2010 she officiated the championship game for the United Football League. By 2013 Sarah was a finalist for a full-time officiating gig in the NFL, which she was awarded in 2015.
A role model
When Sarah Thomas is interviewed, she has great things to say about her peers. She feels respected by the rest of the officiating crew, the athletes, and the coaches. Sarah doesn’t publicly acknowledge the terrible things said online by some nobody sitting in the dark behind the safety of his computer. Instead, she acknowledges the little girls and grown women to whom she is a role model.
I’m gonna end this by beating the trolls to the punch. Saying things like “It doesn’t matter that she’s a woman as long as she is a good referee” minimizes what she’s doing. Making comments like “That’s great until she throws a flag for a play that happened four plays prior” is tacky and rude. You are not as funny as you think you are, keep your terrible, sexist jokes to yourself. And before someone starts telling women (including me) to get in the kitchen, don’t worry – I’ll be cooking up insane snacks AND watching football.