Super Bowl Sunday is as close to a national holiday in the United States as something can be without actually being one.
Every year, the National Football League (NFL) crowns its champion in a grand, winner-take-all single match. There's fireworks and planes and a huge concert ... even the commercials that are shown during the game are something people look forward to!
But this year, when Super Bowl LV (55) is played between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, there's one really cool aspect that we're excited about. For the first time ever, a woman will be a referee at the Super Bowl—Sarah Thomas!
Hitting the field
Thomas will be one of the seven-person team that has the honour of calling, being one of the officials, for the big game. She first trained to become an official in 2007, and was hired as a full-time NFL ref in 2015. But even though she's going to be breaking a huge barrier for her gender, she's quick to remind people that her reasons for being a referee are simple.
"When you start having more and more and more females, no one's doing it for the recognition (of being a woman)," she said in a recent NFL interview. "They are doing it because they love it."
The thing that we really admire about Thomas? On one hand, she personally wants to be seen as "just an official" by her "peers, the coaches, and the players" on the field. "That's what I want," she says. To be just another person helping the game.
But she also understands the fact that she's a female official is really important to, as she puts it, "young females or female executives or employees" everywhere —in others who look up to her as an example.
She walks that line between just wanting to do the best job but also contributing to a bigger change. The more women we see holding jobs like this, the more girls will realize that this is a career they could have someday.
Change is happening
This change is happening all over pro sports. Female referees are all across the NBA now. Recently, Kim Ng became the first female GM in baseball. And at last year's Super Bowl, Katie Sowers became the first female assistant coach to reach the big game as a member of the San Francisco 49ers' staff. So it makes sense that Sarah Thomas is now breaking the barrier for officials.
Sarah Thomas knows that she's breaking a barrier. And that's cool. But she's most excited for the day when it's not even a surprise that she's a woman with a job in sports. She wants everybody to feel like every job is accessible to them, regardless of gender.
We're excited for that day, too. And no matter which team wins Sunday, we're going to love seeing Sarah out on the field. Here's to a great game!