Pride In The Game: Celebrating 10 LGBTQ+ heroes in sports

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MIAMI, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 02: Assistant coach of San Francisco 49ers Katie Sowers of the San Francisco 49ers looks on before Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

WFA: Before becoming the NFL’s first openly gay Super Bowl coach, Katie Sowers played the game professionally

Katie Sowers will always be remembered for her mark on history, but it won’t only be as the NFL’s first openly LGBTQ+ coach, one that advanced all the way to a Super Bowl.

Long before Katie coached NFL wide receivers, she played quarterback in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), the longest-running active women’s football league in the United States.

Growing up in Hesston, Kansas, Katie and her twin sister, Liz Sowers, fell in love with the game. The fact that there was no pipeline for girls’ tackle football didn’t deter them, as both sisters eventually found their way to professional football rosters. Katie Sowers spent eight years in the WFA, playing for the West Michigan Mayhem and the Kansas City Titans until she retired in 2016 due to a hip injury. At 2013, Sowers’ career reached incredible heights: she was selected as a member of the United States Women’s National Football Team that went on to win the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championship. Sowers won a world championship in football long before she ever reached the Super Bowl.

In June 2021, Sowers spoke with Julie Compton of NBC News in celebration of Pride Month. Sowers wasn’t racing to be the first, but she’s aware of the power her presence holds to the girls and queer youth who can relate to her.

“When I got into coaching, it was never to be the first. I’ve never been a believer in racing to be the first, because when you think about these young girls saying, ‘I want to be the first female president, I want to be the first this, that or the other,’ I think that we end up racing each other.”

“More importantly, [we should make sure] there’s a second, third, fourth, fifth.”

[Being the first woman and out gay person in the Super Bowl was] “an incredible experience” [and also] “a lot of responsibility.”

“But I was proud to see the feedback of young girls who are now believing that they could also coach, they can be a part of the game just like the men.”

Today, Sowers is the director of athletic strategic initiatives at Ottawa University, and she still coaches football — this time, it’s a women’s flag football team. Before that, the Kansas native lived out a dream by joining the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff. Throughout her remarkable athletic and coaching career, Katie Sowers has shown the world that women and LGBTQ+ individuals have so much to offer the game of football.

—Aryanna Prasad

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