Pair of female NFL pioneers become real life superheroes

Both recognized among espnW’s Impact 25, Dr. Jen Welter and Sarah Thomas earned a unique honor. All 25 women recognized for their impact in sport were given the superhero treatment as Marvel Comics and espnW teamed up for a unique and exciting concept. All the subject of unique artwork, the remarkable members of the Impact 25 were depicted as superheroes.

Taking into account that both football and the comics industry were long considered male dominated industries, it was truly fitting that a pair of female artists worked on the renditions of both football pioneers. Welter, who became a household name for her impact as a linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals during the 2015 NFL preseason, was drawn by Natacha Bustos. As a side note, Bustos would also do the artwork for Diana Taurasi, another member of the Impact 25.

Sarah Thomas by Nicole Virella and Rachelle Rosenberg / Jen Welter by Natacha Bustos Read More: ESPN and Marvel Display the Heroism of Women in Sports | http://comicsalliance.com/espn-marvel-women-in-sports/?trackback=tsmclip

Sarah Thomas by Nicole Virella and Rachelle Rosenberg / Jen Welter by Natacha Bustos
Read More: ESPN and Marvel Display the Heroism of Women in Sports | http://comicsalliance.com/espn-marvel-women-in-sports/?trackback=tsmclip

Nicole Virella and Rachelle Rosenberg teamed up for the rendition of Thomas. The pencils and inks were handled by Virella while Rosenberg took the coloring duties. The first female official in league history, Thomas is part of an exciting time for the growing role of women in football. During the preseason, Thomas would officiate a game featuring the Cardinals, getting the chance to meet Welter. As a side note, Rosenberg also did the coloring for the images of Lauren Greenfield, Chloe Kim and Carli Lloyd, all recognized by espnW.

Perhaps even more unique was the fact that all depictions featured nicknames. Welter went by the sobriquet “The Ball Buster” while Thomas was dubbed “The Penalizer”. As all 25 women were honored at a gala in New York City, they were given a rendition of the artwork in a frame with a bow, a fitting tribute to the gift they provided sports fans and young athletes alike with their aspiring presence.

#jen-welter, #sarah-thomas

NFL Women’s Summit adds to growing momentum of women in football

Part of the excitement of the annual Super Bowl involves a week’s worth of unique and special events. From the “Taste of the NFL”, which features foods from every NFL market, to “The NFL Honors”, a new event is added, which serves to encourage and empower. The inaugural NFL Women’s Summit: “In the Huddle to Advance Women in Sport” is a superlative way to recognize the efforts of women in football. Whether it be through the groundbreaking IFAF Women’s Worlds, USA Football’s initiatives, or other groundbreaking moves, such as Dr. Jen Welter and Katrhyn Smith gaining coaching opportunities, not to mention Sarah Thomas as a line judge, the NFL is working towards setting a positive example of continuing to find ways to influence.

Considering that this year is the 50th Anniversary of the Super Bowl, the Women’s Summit holds an even stronger meaning. While the popular of football is without dispute, its commitment to recognizing the potential of women in football and sport in general, shows remarkable sincerity, reinforced by the attendance of NFL commissioner Roger Goddell. Hosted on February 4 and 5 in San Francisco (the host city for the game), it represented a remarkable gathering of some of the most prominent women in sport and society. Among such women, one holds ownership ties to the Miami Dolphins.

Recognized as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year for 2015, Serena Williams and her sister Venus both hold an ownership stake in the Dolphins, the first women of African-American heritage to claim such prestige. Serena was on-hand as she was interviewed by former ESPN analyst Robin Roberts along with Condoleeza Rice, the former US Secretary of State who cheers for the Cleveland Browns. As a side note, Rice was the Chancellor of Stanford University when legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh served as the head of their football program.

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

An additional element featured a panel of five remarkable women in football. Currently with USA Football, Sam Rapoport, a former quarterback of the Montreal Blitz, has been instrumental in making the Women’s World Football Games a key event in developing the game and its talent. Joining her was former Dallas Diamonds superstar Dr. Jen Welter, whose accomplishments breaking gender barriers as a player and coach are legendary.

Line judge Sarah Thomas, who was the first female official in NFL history also joined the panel. It was an opportunity to reunite with Welter. During the presence, Welter had a coaching internship with the Arizona Cardinals. During a preseason game that involved the Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas had officiating duties, marking the first-ever NFL contest to feature women in both a coaching and officiating role.

Two female executives with the NFL’s franchises in the Bay Area, the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers were also part of said panel. Qiava Martinez serves as a Vice President of Premier Seating and Services with the Raiders. Perhaps more importantly, her role is a proud extension of Amy Trask’s legacy, the first female chief executive in NFL history, a role that she held with the same Raiders. The 49ers were represented by Ali Towle, a VP of Marketing for the five-time Super Bowl champions and host franchise for Super Bowl 50.

While the event featured over 250 guests, there was still accessibility as all facets were live streamed through AOL, whose site www.MAKERS.com is a remarkable collection (and reference point) that chronicles how sport has transformed the lives of women. Fans are also encouraged to follow the Summit via Twitter and share comments throughout social media with the hashtag #inthehuddle.

Perhaps the most redeeming aspect of the Summit was the fact that the positive messages throughout extended beyond football. It was a forum filled with encouragement that not only showed the positive influence of sport in the lives of women, but its themes can also apply to the professional aspirations that women have.

#ali-towle, #jen-welter, #qiava-martinez, #samantha-rapoport, #sarah-thomas

Memorabilia from Jen Welter and Sarah Thomas to be displayed in Canton

Week one during the 2015 NFL preseason opened on a historic note. While the Arizona Cardinals hosted the Kansas City Chiefs at the University of Phoenix Stadium, falling by a score of 34-19, sporting equality took a historic and exciting step forward. With Dr. Jen Welter in her capacity as a coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals’ middle linebackers, signifying the first game in NFL history to feature a female member of a participating team’s coaching staff; there was another element that added to such a landmark game.

Sarah Thomas, the first full-time female official hired by the NFL was making her officiating debut in the contest. With history being made twice in one night, it was only fitting that the event should be commemorated at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. A flip card of the game was signed by both Thomas and Welter for display in the Hall.

In addition, a photograph of the two along with Welter’s game-worn coaches shirt (of white color with the Cardinals logo on the left) was also placed on display. Beaming with pride, Welter was celebratory on social media, while providing an inspiring message for girls and women looking to make their own dreams come true,

“It’s official, for woman the road to Canton starts with a white shirt…. As a woman who saved my first check of $12 women’s football, and paid dearly to play… A simple white shirt makes a profound statement! @profootballhof thank you for the honor. To all the girls and women out there, let passion, potential, & God’s purpose guide you, not simply a paycheck. That’s #HOF advice in life, not just football.”

Not only was Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians gracious in his assessment of Thomas’ debut, calling her “solid”, linebacker Markus Golden appeared on Arizona Sport 98.7 FM stating that Welter was a really good coach, doing a good job. Welter has certainly gained her own share of new fans. At the Cardinals training facility, fans have been eagerly looking to obtain her autograph. Having earned her doctorate in 2014, she is known affectionately by the sobriquet, “Dr. J”.

Of note, Welter and Thomas are not the only women to have made significant inroads in football this year. Broadcaster Beth Mowins was hired by the Oakland Raiders as their first-ever female play-by-play announcer. In years past, Amy Trask was a CEO for the Raiders, adding to their proud legacy of women in football. Adding to such a momentous hire was the New York Jets appointing Jacqueline Davidson to the position of director of football administration.

For Welter, a two-time IFAF Women’s World Champion that played over a decade with the Dallas Diamonds, football was not her first sport. Attending high school in Florida, she graced the tennis court, following with several solid seasons of rugby with the Boston College Eagles.

Having broken barriers as the first woman to play in a non-kicking position in men’s professional football with the Texas Revolution, she would also coach with the Revolution in 2015. A remarkable show of support must be credited to another individual with strong NFL roots. Former Raiders great (and Hall of Famer) Tim Brown holds the General Manager position with the Revolution and was in awe of Welter’s work ethic and ability to never give up.

The Hall of Fame recognition is one that is highly fitting for both Welter and Thomas. The proverbial icing on the cake for both would be their likenesses on a football card. Perhaps in the near future, Canton shall open its doors to female football players, akin to the Hockey Hall of Fame inducting female hockey players. On the field, Welter was part of an exciting generation for the growth of women’s football, one that featured the likes of Sami Grisafe, Liz Sowers and Donna Wilkinson, not just Hall of Fame athletes, but Hall of Fame people.

Although Welter has drawn comparisons to former WNBA star Becky Hammon, the first woman to serve full-time on an NBA coaching staff (with the San Antonio Spurs), the bigger picture signifies a watershed moment for women in sport. From women’s hockey players such as Hilary Knight, Lesley Reddon and Anne Schleper earning the chance to practice with NHL clubs over this past season to women’s baseball being contested for the first time at the Pan American Games, Welter is part of a group of pioneers that are not just building a new and exciting role for women in sport, they are subsequently building self-esteem and confidence for all women.

#jen-welter, #sarah-thomas

Sarah Thomas breaks gender barrier to become the first female NFL referee

As the National Football League prepares for the 2015 season, an exciting announcement has resulted in a great day for sporting equality. After close to a decade of officiating at the collegiate level, Sarah Thomas has been hired by the NFL as an official.

In becoming the first woman to serve as official at the NFL level, it only adds to the growing momentum of women breaking barriers in football. Taking into account that this year, Dr. Jen Welter (a two-time gold medalist for the USA at the IFAF Women’s World Football Championships) became an assistant coach with the Texas Revolution, the accomplishment of Thomas makes 2015 a year to remember.

Congratulations to NFL commissioner Roger Goddell, who has shown great strides in helping make football more female friendly. From the implementation of a line of female-friendly football merchandise, to women serving as on-air personalities for the NFL Network, Goddell even invited Sam Gordon to attend the Super Bowl as his guest. With the league’s support of USA Football’s programs geared towards women in football, it marks the beginning of a golden age for women in football.

Thomas follows in the proud legacy of Violet Palmer, who became the first female referee in the history of the National Basketball Association back in the 1990s. As a side note, the 2014-15 NBA season saw Becky Hammonds become the first female member of a coaching staff, as she joined the San Antonio Spurs.

Perhaps one day, there shall be a female umpire in Major League Baseball, or a female official in the National Hockey League. For now, the appointment of Thomas as an NFL official makes her a gridiron hero in the noble effort for sporting equality.

#sarah-thomas

Referee Sarah Thomas deserves to be part of NFL history

While the NFL has seen women make an impact in its game, Amy Trask of the Raiders was the first female executive in NFL football, Nicole Zaloumis hosts the NFL Network’s morning show, women on the field of play is still a rarity. Despite the hope that one day women can compete as field goal kickers, only one woman has ever served as an NFL referee.

In 2012, Shannon Eastin was hired as a temporary non-union official during the NFL’s infamous referee lockout. Prior to the launch of the 2013 NFL season, Sarah Thomas from Brandon, Mississippi emerged as one of 21 finalists for a permanent NFL officiating position.

Having already worked scrimmages for the New Orleans Saints, which has attracted huge throngs of media, she is part of the NFL’s officiating development program. Of note, she did spend three days at the Indianapolis Colts minicamps.

The 40 year-old referee and mother of three is hoping to be the first permanent female referee in NFL history. Prior to her football ambitions, she competed on the hardcourt, earning a basketball scholarship to the University of Mobile, where she was named an Academic All-American. When not on the gridiron, Thomas works as a pharmaceutical representative.

Her first brush as a football referee came in 1996 when she was only 23 years old. Having made history as the first female to officiate a Division 1-A high school football game (in her native of Mississippi), her next break followed ten years later as former NFL referee Gerry Austin invited her to a camp for officials. In 2007, she would be hired for the Conference USA officiating staff. Her first game at the Conference USA level involved Memphis and Jacksonville State.

After the 2009 season, Thomas would continue her remarkable officiating legacy. At the Little Caesar’s Bowl between Marshall and Ohio, she became the first female to officiate in a bowl game. Stints in the Senior Bowl would follow for the titanic Thomas. From there, her reputation as a respected and competent official only grew.

In 2010, she was part of the officiating staff for the United Football League’s championship game. The experience was enhanced by the fact that Anita Marks, one of the most popular female quarterbacks ever, was part of the broadcasting crew for the UFL.

One of the great pinnacles in her collegiate career would come on November 12, 2011. The University of Northwestern hosted Rice University and with Thomas on the officiating crew, it marked the first time that a female officiated in a Big Ten stadium.

While the next phase in her groundbreaking journey is to become a member of the NFL’s officiating team, she has worked with the Saints at training camps since 2006 and certainly paid her dues. Although the national media interest in 2013 resulted in the Saints having had to move some of their training camp scrimmages indoors, Thomas has earned the respect and trust of Saints players and coaches. If she were to one day be the first female official in the Super Bowl, it would represent a tremendous impact in the growth of women in football.

Part of a field of 21 candidates for one coaching job, there is no question that there will be unprecedented interest in a referee being hired. Seeing how the NBA has already employed Violet Palmer, it is time for the NFL to follow in their legacy. As the NHL and MLB have not yet had female officials, it is a position whose time has come. The next step for Thomas would not only make sports history but exemplify how women have continued to shatter the glass ceiling of men’s sports.

#sarah-thomas