Three Women Make History In NFL Leadership At Super Bowl LV

Down judge Sarah Thomas and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaches Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar pioneer as the first female referee and winning coaches at this year’s Super Bowl.

It’s no secret that football is an overwhelmingly male-dominated field, from the players to the sports reporters. This year’s Super Bowl made groundbreaking strides towards gender representation with three revolutionary women on the field: Sarah Thomas, the first female Super Bowl referee, and Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar, the first women to coach the game’s champion team.

Image courtesy of the NFL

This achievement comes after a long history of gender discrimination in the world of American football. Back in 1939, Alabama’s Luverne Wise made waves as the first woman to score points in a football game, but efforts were made to suppress women’s involvement in the game. That same year, Jack Spaulding, founder of the East-West Football Classic, made a pamphlet with condescending guidelines for women’s football that eliminated tackling and rough contact from the sport. Combined with a LIFE feature about women in football, rules were implemented across the country banning women from playing. Since then, women’s football has received dismal media coverage and payment compared to their male counterparts — a frequent theme across most sports.

The path for female sports leadership is also wrought with sexism. While 1972’s Title IX made strides towards more female representation on the playing field, it was met by a sharp decline in female sports leadership. Pre-1972 sports saw 90% of female sports teams coached by women, which shrunk to 43% female head coaches by 2009, according to a 2011 study by Miller and Flores. Unsurprisingly, Black women were even more underrepresented in sports leadership.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Locust and conditioning coach Javadifar follow in the footsteps of Katie Sowers, the San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant who made headlines last year as the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl. Locust and Javadifar establish the Buccaneers as the only NFL team with two female full-time assistant coaches.

Image courtesy of the Buccaneers
Image courtesy of the Buccaneers

As far as referees, down judge Sarah Thomas is the only female officiator in NFL history after making her 2015 debut for the league. While the response to her accomplishment was overwhelmingly positive, Twitter replies to the historical announcement were still teeming with sexist remarks and objectification.

The revolutionary achievements of Thomas, Locust, and Javadifar signify how how many yards the NFL has left to go when tackling female representation on and off the field.

Discover More