Sarah Thomas Makes History
“She’ll always be a trailblazer,” Gerry Austin of the NFL told ESPN back in 2015. The trailblazer he was referring to is Sarah Thomas, the now 47-year-old who recently became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl game.
Sarah Thomas grew up surrounded by sports. As an athlete herself, and having brothers who played football, she was drawn to the camaraderie and competition. Thomas played basketball during her time at the University of Mobile, and when she graduated, she was determined to combine her love of sports and her career.
Following graduation, Thomas attended an officiating meeting with her brother, who was a high school football referee. She was hooked.
“These guys actually get together and discuss rules and what-if scenarios and plays that happen and challenge each other,” she told ET. “I felt that I could give back in a sense to just organized sports. I love sports. But this football officiating thing took off.”
Thomas started small, officiating elementary and high school football games. She continued to excel, as her dedication and commitment to the sport led her to becoming the first woman to officiate a major college football game, and it did not stop there.
In 2015, Thomas, a mother of three, became the first woman to hold a full-time permanent job at the NFL. She continued to strive to be the best in the field, and in January 2021, she was asked to officiate the Super Bowl, making her the first woman to be appointed to the position in NFL history.
In a statement to ET, Thomas says, “It’s just so meaningful. I never set out to be the first, at all, in any of this…But knowing the impact I’m having on, not just my daughter, but young girls everywhere, women everywhere. And I have to add in young men and men too. I have two precious young men that I’m raising to be a partner with their spouse and respect [that] she’s a hardworking woman.”
Troy Vincent of the NFL said in a statement, “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl.” While she may have been focusing on being the best in her field, rather than the first, she has certainly achieved both, breaking barriers with her seminal achievements, regardless of gender.