Who is Sarah Thomas? The First Female Referee at the Super Bowl

The 55th Super Bowl will feature a first: Two women will be coaching in the game.

Lori Locust, a defensive line assistant, and Maral Javadifar, an assistant strength and conditioning coach, are both on the staff of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians.

Before 2015, the N.F.L. had never had a female coach. But this season there were eight, by far the most ever. They include Jennifer King, whose recent promotion by the Washington Football Team made her the first Black woman to coach full-time in the league.

Advocates of women in sports are cautiously optimistic that the number of women coaching in the N.F.L. will continue to grow. But they look with caution at the number of minority head coaches in the league, and the stop-and-start progress of the league’s Rooney Rule. There were eight minority head coaches in 2017; currently there are just three.

Sunday’s game will include another first for women. When Javadifar and Locust go to shake the referees hands, they’ll shake the hand of down judge Sarah Thomas, the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl.

Thomas, 47, became the first woman to referee full-time in the N.F.L. in 2015 and first officiated a playoff game in 2019. She was profiled by The New York Times in 2009, when Thomas was major college football’s only female referee.

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