The Significance of the First Female Referee at the Super Bowl

Sunday, February 7th, 2021 at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the Tamp Bay Buccaneers played the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, History was made on that day that went beyond Tom Brady winning his seventh Super Bowl Ring. Sarah Thomas served as a down judge during Super Bowl , and in so doing became the first female to officiate in a Super Bowl. She made history before the Super Bowl as the first women to officiate in a college football game and later becoming the first female to officiate in the NFL.  

Sarah Thomas ascension to Super Bowl officiating shows women that having a passion for sports is something. to be appreciated. Thomas pushed the barriers aside and broke into a traditional “boys club” of the sports industry – football officiating. Thomas’s story has proven that in society women have progressed in the right direction in the fight for inclusion in sports for women.   

Sarah Thomas officiating as down judge in 2019 (Leon Halip, Getty Images)

 Underrepresentation of women, whether participating or in leadership roles is obvious when watching professional sports. A quick scan of the professional sports industry highlights the fact that professional sports is a male-dominated industry at all levels, including officiating. Socially constructed myths and stereotypes on gender continue to be relevant in sport society and limit opportunities available to them in professional sport. The increased involvement of women in sports at all roles, and levels, has challenged the sexist barrier. Women like Sarah Thomas, exemplify the progress made by women in sports while simultaneously highlighting the gender gap that does exist. While there is much to be achieved for women in sports Sarah Thomas is proof that much has been achieved as well.  


Featured image: Sarah Thomas working as the first female official at a Super Bowl LV (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

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