Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Opinion: Women making sports history in traditionally-male roles

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

“Why? There is already a whole … league dedicated to women.”

It’s what one male on Twitter said in response to another male who was proud to support coach Becky Hammon, assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and the first woman to coach an American professional men’s basketball team.

This is one of many examples of those who believe women don’t have a place in sports, specifically ones that are dominated by men such as the NBA, NFL, NCAA and MLB.

In 2020, there were a handful of awesome women who made a name for themselves by becoming the first woman to serve a specific role in these organizations.

>>>>>The aforementioned Hammon, assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, became the first woman to coach an American professional men’s basketball team after head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected from a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 12. Hammon then became the acting head coach near the end of the second quarter after Popovich was given his second technical foul of the game. This is not the first time she has made history in the sport: When she was hired in 2014, she became the first female full-time assistant coach in NBA history along with the first in all of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.

>>>>>Sarah Fuller, senior goalkeeper at Vanderbilt University, became the first woman to play in a Power Five conference (a subdivision of NCAA Division 1 football) football game after COVID-19 concerns left the team without any kickers for their game against the Missouri Tigers. Fuller remained on the team’s roster for the following weeks against Georgia, a game that was postponed, and also in the game against Tennessee after the interim head coach decided she would cover any kicks inside the 10-yard line. Fuller kicked an extra point following a first-quarter touchdown, becoming the first woman to score in a Power Five conference game.

>>>>>Katie Sowers, an offensive assistant for the San Fransico 49ers, became the first woman and the first openly-gay coach in a Super Bowl game during Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs. She has been an offensive assistant since being promoted in 2019.

>>>>>Women made history in the NFL again in a regular-season game during week three [Washington-Browns] when women coached on both sides of the field. This game was different than any other because of the female official, Sarah Thomas who worked the game. Coaches Callie Brownson, chief of staff for the Cleveland Browns, and Jennifer King, a full-season intern for Washington.

>>>>>Brownson made history later on in the 2020 season when she became the first woman to coach an NFL position group in a regular-season game during week 12 against the Jackson Jaguars. She filled in for tight end coach Drew Petzing after the birth of his first child. She also stepped up in week 17 in the game against the Steelers as the wide receivers coach after Chad O’Shea tested positive for COVID-19.

>>>>>Thomas is the only female official in the NFL. She became the first female official in 2015 and has since continued her career in the NFL for the past six seasons. During the 2020 season, she was on the officiating crew where she is a down judge.

>>>>>Alyssa Nakken made history in 2020 by becoming the first woman on an MLB coaching staff. She was promoted to assistant coach for the San Francisco Giants in January of 2020, and in July, she became the first woman to coach on the field during an MLB game where she was the first base coach.

These seven women are part of a long list of women who are proving that abilities and talent can rise above gender. When individuals look past their genders and toward their talent and skills, it not only improves the teams but also helps the world around us.

History will remember these women in more than just words but also in actions as some of them have been placed in multiple Hall of Fames around the country. Nakken’s jersey was sent to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, Brownson’s sideline jacket and an autographed ball from the game against the Jaguars are on display in The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and Fuller’s Vanderbilt jersey is enshrined at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta Georgia.

These women prove a woman can do anything a man can do, sometimes even better. But don’t believe me; watch these women in action for yourself, and hopefully, they’ll prove why they belong beyond the “league dedicated to women.”