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Women’s Involvement in the NFL

Women are becoming more involved in the National Football League. Many teams in the league have women on their coaching staff, while other women are officiating NFL games. Back in 2016, the Buffalo Bills hired special teams quality control coach Kathryn Smith and she made history by becoming the first full-time female coaching in the NFL.

This followed with more women being hired for NFL teams, including offensive assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers Katie Sowers. She joined the team in 2017 on an intern bases and later got promoted for a full-time position on the team as seasonal offensive assistant. Sowers received another promotion in 2019 when she became the offensive assistant coach for the 49ers.

Sowers made history in 2020 when she became the first female coach to appear in a Super Bowl game. In a powerful commercial for Microsoft for Super Bowl LIV, Sowers spoke about her journey as a coach in the NFL and why she believes more women should have roles in the NFL.

Unfortunately the 49ers announced last month that Sowers will not be returning to the team for the 2021 season (Photo Credit: Gabriel Fernandez/Getty Images)

“I always wanted to be a coach. My dad was a coach. I never saw an opportunity in football because I had never seen a female coach before. People tell me that people aren’t ready to have a woman lead, but these guys have been learning from women their whole lives” said Sowers according to Forbes.

Today in 2021 more history was created in the NFL. Assistant strength coach Maral Javadifar and assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust landed jobs on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, making them the first team ever to have a pair of women on their coaching staff. Last Sunday, Javadifar and Locust became the first females ever to win a Super Bowl as coaches.

Javadifar spoke about the victory and can’t wait until more women win Super Bowl titles as coaches in the NFL.

“I do look forward to the day that it’s no longer newsworthy to be a woman working in the pros or making the Super Bowl for that matter” said Javadifar to the NFL. “And, you know, I hope we get to a point where all people are afforded equal opportunities to work in professional sports because there are a lot of great qualified coaches out there.”

Locust added to Javadifar’s statement saying “It wouldn’t matter if we were second in or 273rd. And I mean, like we acknowledge the fact there hasn’t been many before us, but it’s not anything that we kind of keep in the forefront of what we do on a daily basis” she said to the NFL.

Maral Javadifar with cornerback Ross Cockrell during Super Bowl LIV (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Another piece of history was made when down judge Sarah Thomas became the first women to officiate in a Super Bowl. She was also the first ever female ref in the NFL when she appeared in her first game as a crew line judge during the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs game at NRG Stadium on Sep. 13 2015.

These are just small steps to building more opportunities for women for positions in the NFL and in the colleague level. Vanderbilt women’s soccer goalkeeper Sarah Fuller made history when she appeared as a kicker for the Vanderbilt football team, becoming the first women ever to play in a Power Five football game.

It’s women like Smith, Sowers, Javadifar, Locust and Fuller who are paving the way for more women to participate in the NFL and other male dominated leagues. Since Smith and Sowers came into the league, many other women followed in their footsteps and are making history. Soon we will see more women obtaining regular roles in the NFL and it will become normalized in sports to see women take on leadership roles in sports.


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