The NFL is making slow forward progress on gender equity.
It’s a fitting progression for Thomas, who has worked steadily up the ranks since she became the first female permanent NFL official back in 2015. In 2019, she also became the first female to officiate an NFL playoff game.
“Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent Sr. in a statement. “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor.”
Thomas is technically an official; in the NFL, a referee is the term for the official who leads the entire officiating crew.
Thomas would likely disagree with all the coverage her historic first will undoubtedly generate. In a 2019 interview with NFL Total Access, Thomas said that outside of some female executives, her gender has never been acknowledged on the field.
“As far as my peers, and those that are on the field ― coaches, players ― they see me as an official,” she said, “and that’s exactly what I want.”
Asked what it would feel like if she ever got the chance to work a Super Bowl, Thomas said it would be rewarding to “grade out at the top of your game.”
“I want to earn it,” she said. “And I want to be there.”