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Meet Sarah Thomas, the first woman in NFL history to officiate at the Super Bowl

Sarah Thomas adds another first to her long list of firsts. On February 7, she will be the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl game.

Meet Sarah Thomas, the first woman in NFL history to officiate at the Super Bowl
Image Source: Divisional Round - Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots. FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS -JANUARY 13. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

2021 truly is a year of firsts for women across the board. Six years after Sarah Thomas made history when she was named the first permanent woman National Football League (NFL) official in 2015, and two years after she became the first woman to officiate an NFL playoff game in 2019, she has achieved another first. Thomas has been selected to be part of the elite officiating crew for Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida. The game is scheduled to take place on February 7. According to the league, she is set to be the down judge in the crew of eight officials, CNN reports.


As per the NFL's official statement, Thomas will become the first woman in history to be part of an officiating crew. The crew typically consists of the Referee, Umpire, (Head) Linesman, Line judge, Side Judge, Field Judge, and Back Judge. Behind the scenes and off the pitch, however, there are other members as well, such as the chain crew, who work with or for the field crew, and the replay officials. During playoff games, there are also alternates. NFL officials noted that Thomas's excellent performance was one of the reasons she was selected for the opportunity, as the men before her.


NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Troy Vincent, Sr., affirmed in a statement, "Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official. Her elite performance and commitment to excellence have earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor." She will now serve on the officiating crew alongside other top stalwarts in pro football. This includes Carl Cheffers, Fred Bryan, Rusty Baynes, James Coleman, Eugene Hall, Dino Paganelli, and Mike Wimmer. Collectively, they have 88 years of NFL officiating experience in addition to 77 combined playoff game assignments (some of these assignments include past Super Bowls).


"Their body of work over the course of a 17-game season has earned them the honor of officiating the biggest game on the world's biggest stage." NFL Executive Vincent, Sr., stated. "They are the best of the best." There is no doubt that Thomas had to shatter some glass ceilings in order to reach this position. She began her career in officiating in the year 1996 when she attended a meeting of the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association. Three years later, in 1999, she worked her first varsity high school game.


Thomas got her first break in officiating when Gerry Austin, Conference USA's coordinator of officials who also refereed Super Bowls XXXI and XXXV, invited her to an officials' camp in the year 2006. She was invited as a result of, again, her dedication and skills. Austin eventually hired her for the Conference USA staff and a year later, in 2007, she became the first woman to officiate a major college football game. The game was between Memphis and Jacksonville State. The coordinator said at the time, "She came highly recommended by two NFL scouts. She has a good presence and demeanor. I feel like she has the ability and courage to make a call, and the guts to not make one, too."


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