As the Kansas City Chiefs face off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Super Bowl LV on February 7th, history will be made in the NFL that will inspire women everywhere.
In Super Bowl LV, Sarah Thomas will become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. In addition to this accomplishment, Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust will be on the sidelines for Tampa Bay as the first two women to coach in a Super Bowl for the same team.
Working in a male-dominated industry like the NFL can be tough for women for a variety of reasons. Out of all the coaching jobs throughout the league, women occupy just eight positions. The first female coach entered the league in 2015, just six years ago. The first female to coach in a Super Bowl was just last year on the 49ers’ sideline. Women having the opportunity to coach in the NFL is a very recent development.
Javadifar has been with the Buccaneers for two seasons as the assistant strength and conditioning coach. She has a bachelor of science degree in molecular biology and a doctor of sports physical therapy. Being a New York Native, she obtained both of her degrees from schools in New York and also played college basketball at Pace University while earning her bachelor’s. She completed her sports physical therapy residency at Virginia Commonwealth University and also worked as a physical therapist in the Virginia area.
Locust is also in her second season with Tampa Bay, serving as the assistant defensive line coach. She decided she wanted to pursue a coaching career after playing four years in a women’s semi-professional league. Before this, she worked with the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football during the league’s only season. Locust’s other notable positions include a season as a coaching intern for the Baltimore Ravens in 2018 and defensive line/ linebackers coach and co-special teams coach for the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the National Arena League.
Sarah Thomas began her career as an official at the high school level. In 2007, Thomas became the first female to officiate a major college football game as well as the first female to officiate a bowl game. She also officiated the 2010 championship in the United Football League. Thomas got her NFL start officiating training camp practices for the New Orleans Saints before being hired as a full-time referee for the NFL in 2015. Since then, Thomas has officiated 92 games and 3 playoff games for the NFL. She once broke her wrist during a game and still continued to finish the game.
These three women are shattering glass ceilings and giving inspiration to every single woman who works in the sports industry.
“I do look forward to the day when it’s no longer newsworthy to be a woman working in the pros, or making the Super Bowl for that matter,” Javadifar told USA Today. “There’s hundreds of women that are at various levels of football – whether at high school, college, semi-pro – and they’ve been out there kind of doing it on their own, and they’ve been earning those positions on their own without any help from anyone else.”USA Today
There are many firsts for females in the NFL that will happen during Super Bowl LV, but they most certainly won’t be the last. More and more women are getting the opportunities that they have been working for their entire lives. Every time a woman earns a role in the sports industry, we move one step closer to equal opportunities, no matter someone’s gender.