For the very time in its 55-year history, the Super Bowl had a woman officiating in 2021. Sarah Thomas, who worked Super Bowl LV as a down judge on referee Carl Cheffers’ crew, was the first woman to act as a referee during the NFL’s championship game.
It was far from Thomas’ first time working an NFL game — and far from her first time making history in the league. The trailblazer began her career with the NFL in 2015, when she became its first woman on-field official.
“Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent Sr., said in a statement. “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.”
Getting a spot on the crew at the Super Bowl is typically seen as the greatest honor a football official can attain, as the pressure that goes with it is immense. In an opinion piece for USA Today, Mike Freeman wrote about the historic significance of Thomas’ appointment.
“Game officials don’t need to be world-class athletes or have super physical strength,” he wrote. “They just need to have good vision (barely), tough skin and be quick thinkers. Still, there’s been no women officiating in the Super Bowl until now, and only a handful of others officiating regular season and playoff games until now.”
Coming into the Super Bowl, Thomas had worked a total of four postseason games during her tenure with the NFL.
“It’s a big deal,” Freeman wrote of Thomas’ role on the crew. “One of the biggest we’ve seen in history.”
In 2017, Thomas spoke to SB Nation about being a woman in a male-dominated field.
“As women, the way we carry ourselves speaks a lot,” she said. “Field presence is what they talk about. But you can still be a woman, you can be attractive, and whatever way you carry yourself speaks volumes to the reception. A man may feel as if he can have his way or whatever, but I just think that when we carry ourselves with confidence and walk into a room with confidence, the atmosphere kind of changes.”
Congratulations to Thomas on her historic role!