Katie Sowers, recent assistant coach hire of the San Francisco 49ers, came out as homosexual in an interview with Outsports, becoming the first coach in any of the four major sports to do so.
Sowers grew up with a rich background in football. She played for the US national team in the IFAF Women’s World Championship and the Kansas City Titans in the Women’s Football Alliance, excelling at multiple positions. A hip injury cut her career short, so she then served as the Titans’ general manager.
Sowers joined the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons as an intern in 2016. After impressing Kyle Shanahan, then the offensive coordinator, last season, she was brought on to join the 49ers staff when Shanahan became head coach this year.
“She’s a hard worker, you don’t even notice her because she just goes to work and does what’s asked…we’d like to have her help out throughout the year,” praised Shanahan to the San Jose Mercury News.
Sowers works primarily with wide receivers on their agility and catching. She was turned down from a volunteer coaching job in basketball because of her sexual orientation.
Sowers told Outsports: “That moment really impacted me because it was the first time I truly felt judged because of my sexual orientation. I was so passionate about coaching and to feel like my opportunities were limited because of who I loved was hard to deal with. However, without that experience I would not be where I am today,”.
Sowers coming out provides LGBT athletes a role model in their community and should help prevent situations like the one she had in basketball.
Fourth-year cross country runner Hayley Yocum, who is bisexual, said via email, “Queer representation in the larger athletic community will mean that young queer people will feel represented by athletic coaches and perhaps feel comfortable becoming athletic coaches.”
Sowers also became the second ever full-time female NFL coach, following the footsteps of Jen Welter, the first woman coach hired by an NFL team, and Kathryn Smith, the first full-time female coach in the NFL.
With the likes of Becky Hammon and Nancy Lieberman joining the ranks in the NBA, women are receiving their well deserved recognition in more major sports.
Although there are still barriers to professional sports jobs for those in the LGBT community, accepting members of the LGBT community should be more and more normalized. With many athletes coming out such as Megan Rapinoe, Brittney Griner and Orlando Cruz, the general public is becoming more aware of the LGBT presence in sports. Excluding gifted individuals for their sexual orientation ignores their capabilities, their talents and their possible contributions to the organization’s goals.
Yocum hopes that Sowers coming out will encourage a more queer-friendly environment across all sports. She also hopes that her story will lead to more athletes coming out.
“No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are,” Sowers told Outsports. “There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation. The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day.”
Additional reporting by Eddie Kerekes, Sports Editor