#SportBits … Women in the NFL


The 2016-‘17 NFL season is upon us. Hooray! And it’s not just the good ole boy’s network anymore…

Football lovin’ females currently make up 45% of the NFL’s 150 million fans. But it’s not only fandom where the women are showing up. They’re making their way onto the field, into the front office, and even in the training rooms. Let’s take a look at a few women who have been busy busting down barriers in this male-dominated field of sports.


Sarah Thomas – Line Judge, NFL
In April of 2015, Thomas became the first-ever full-time female official hired to the NFL. She began her officiating career in high school. After a short stint in sales, she began working for Conference USA. She was the first female to officiate a bowl game in 2009. Last season, I remember watching her make an incredibly difficult call on Monday Night Football at the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers/San Diego Chargers game. The Steelers had the ball at the Chargers’ 1-yard line with only five seconds left. They called a play where the ball was snapped directly to the running back who was initially stopped but managed to plow across the goal line as time expired. Somehow he got the ball across for a touchdown an instant before his knee touched. Thomas was the line judge and raised her hand to signal a touchdown. A replay review confirmed the score and the Steelers won 24-20. I remember thinking, THANK GOD SHE GOT THAT RIGHT, because if she didn’t, social media would have skewered her. Sad but true.

Kathyrn Smith – Special-teams Quality Control Coach, Buffalo Bills
Smith made history in January when she was named the NFL’s first full-time female assistant. Before her promotion, Smith worked as the administrative assistant to Bills head coach Rex Ryan and was player personnel assistant with the NY Jets for seven years before that. She started out as an intern for the team.

Anna Isaacson – Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility, NFL
In 2014 NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Isaacson to the first-ever head of social responsibility. It’s her job to develop and oversee the league’s social responsibility efforts. I’d imagine her job hasn’t been easy since the NFL continues to struggle with domestic violence and sexual assault issues.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Sonia Ruef – Assistant Athletic Trainer, Pittsburgh Steelers
It is Ruef’s job to help treat and prevent injuries. When she was hired in 2011, Ruef became the only female athletic trainer in the NFL – and second in league history. Since then, three more women have been hired as athletic trainers.

“Teams weren’t sure it could work. But all it takes is giving someone a chance to prove themselves.” ~ Sonia Ruef

Well put Sonia – and with the recent expansion of the Rooney Rule to include women, I expect more female hires in the NFL. Me? I’m shooting for Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Rams. You hear that @artistwyman? I’m coming for you!!

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