THERE IS A WOMAN OFFICIATING AT THE SUPER BOWL TONIGHT!
As I write this, it’s only matter of minutes before Sarah Thomas will be on the field in Tampa and the whole world will be watching. The woman who was once the first woman to ref in the NFL full-time is now the first female to officiate at a Super Bowl game.
Of course, Thomas herself is an athlete and played softball and basketball in high school and college, earning a basketball scholarship to the University of Mobile where she made quite a name for herself. After graduating in 1995 with a degree in Communications, Thomas looked for a way to remain a part of the sporting world and found herself officiating football, a game her brothers had played throughout high school. After making her way through elementary school football reffing and then high school, Thomas answered the phone one day to find Gerry Austin on the line, the man who was then the supervisor of Conference USA’s officials.
When you think of the amount of work a man must have to put into making it this far in the world of football officiating, how much more must Sarah Thomas had to have done? A fellow official, a man, once said that “Her offseason study habits were equally if not better than ours were. She was committed to it… One thing she and I discussed is she didn’t want (her gender) to be an issue.”
Congratulations to Sarah Thomas, Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar.— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) February 7, 2021
When Gerry Austin suggested that she tuck her blonde ponytail into her cap (which she does) and not wear makeup while officiating, Thomas had things to say. Although she didn’t agree with the makeup idea, she did understand why he brought it up. “You want to be known as an official – not as a female official – because that’s going to put you in a separate category. We don’t want anything that will enhance that. So when a coach looks at you, he sees an official.”
Just the fact that she had to think about that at all speaks volumes. That quote was mentioned in an article from ESPN celebrating Thomas’ entry into the NFL. And now she’s officiating at the Super Bowl.
This has been a huge year for women in sports, from Becky Hammon becoming the first woman to act as a head coach in an NBA game to the Miami Marlins naming Kim Ng as their GM, to Sarah Fuller playing in a Power 5 football game. And now we’ve entered the realm of the Super Bowl.
The. Super. Bowl!
“Knowing the impact that I’m having on not just my daughter, but young girls everywhere…is remarkable and I’m truly honored and humbled to be a part of this year’s Super Bowl crew.”— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) February 6, 2021
– Sarah Thomas on making @NFL history tomorrow pic.twitter.com/j6jiwZMbYp
In the video above, Thomas speaks of how honoured she is to be a part of this game and to be someone that young girls look up to. But Sarah, it’s not just young girls who are looking up to, it’s all women, everywhere.
For more thoughts and opinions from Melanie, check out her author page.
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)