San Francisco 49ers’ Katie Sowers Is First Openly Gay & First Woman Coach In Super Bowl History

Assistant coach Katie Sowers of the San Francisco 49ers looks on before the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 27, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hannah Foslien / Getty Images

Katie Sowers will be the first female coach in history at Super Bowl LIV on Sunday and will also be the first openly gay one as well. As she told People, she got interested in football at a very young age.

“It’s always just been kind of a natural love,” Sowers said. “Every time I got a chance to write any journal entry in school, it was always about football. I was constantly talking about it.”

Sowers has been holding onto the dream of coaching professional football since 2014, when Becky Hammon was hired as an assistant coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. After that occurred, she tweeted about the monumental event. “Coming for the NFL,” she captioned the tweet that showed both her and Hammon and used the hashtag “#womenincoaching.”

For anyone who might be concerned about a woman’s ability to lead a football team, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has already given the tick of approval.

“She has done a hell of a job,” Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in a YouTube video post.

When the Chiefs punched their ticket to the big game, Sowers was recognized by a popular and successful group of sporting women.

“Big congrats to our friend @KatieSowers on that NFC title and for making history!” U.S. Soccer WNT posted via its official Twitter account. “She’ll be the first woman to coach at a Super Bowl. Love to see it.”

She Faced Discrimination In Her Coaching Journey

According to CNN, Sowers, 33, was born in Hesston, Kansas. While attending Goshen College in Indiana, she competed in various sports, namely soccer, basketball, and track and field. At this time, she came out and was open about her sexuality with family and friends. After graduating, she approached Goshen with the intent of coaching the women’s basketball team there; it was a volunteer, unpaid position. However, based on her sexual orientation, she was turned down by the university that is associated with the Mennonite Church.

This did not deter Sowers, though. Instead, she then began her American football career with the Women’s Football Alliance, alongside her twin sister, Liz. She played for eight years there before becoming the Titans’ general manager.

With the Women’s Football Alliance being an unpaid position, Sowers took on a coaching job for youth girls basketball in Kansas City. It was here she was introduced to the daughter of Scott Pioli, who was the former general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. During conversations with Pioli, who was by that stage the assistant general manager for the Atlanta Falcons, the road toward her inclusion in the NFL began.

Thanks to her inclusion with a training camp offered under the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, Sowers was soon noticed by the offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. Following Shanahan to the Bay Area, she was eventually hired by Kyle as a seasonal offensive assistant. This was only the second time a woman had held a coaching job in league history.

Living In The Open

While Sowers initially took the adversity at Goshen hard, it also helped to shape who she was and her determination pushed her past that rejection. The university has since released a statement regarding the fact Sowers was turned down because of her sexual orientation and indicated that the policy was changed in 2015.

As CNN points out, Sowers officially came out as gay in 2017 during an interview with Outsports. This announcement saw her become the first openly gay coach — male or female — in NFL history.

“No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are,” Sowers told Outsports.

“There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation. The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day.”