Sarah Thomas Makes Super Bowl History: Win for Women Officiates

On January 19th, 2021, the NFL released the Super Bowl officiating crew including an unexpected name: Amongst the 8-person officiating team, 47-year-old Sarah Thomas was assigned the position of “down judge” making history by becoming the first women to ever officiate in the Super Bowl. Prior to this major history making event, Thomas has previously made history in 2015 by becoming the first permanent female official in the National Football League. 

The US first lady, Jill Biden, cheering on Sarah Thompson

Women have been rising in the world of sport lately more than ever, as there have been female officiates, female coaches, and female managers recently assigned in the North American major leagues (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB). Many positive situations have led to some change for women in sport, yet there is a long road ahead before we achieve absolute gender equality in the world of sport. 

Officiating has long been a male dominated job in multiple sports, such as football, soccer, hockey, etc. Women officiates are not viewed as equal to men, leading to discrimination against the women who are trying to do their job and referee games. Research by Forbes, Edwards and Fleming proves this statement as they explore the negative experiences of female football (soccer) officials in the UK, including a wide range of abuse. 

S.B.

Featured Image: Sarah Thompson, the female football referee in action (Source: Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press) 

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