San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers is the first openly LGBT coach in NFL history.
Sowers, 31, first entered professional football as a player on the Women’s Football Alliance. In 2016, she became an intern with the Atlanta Falcons’ scouting department. Sowers caught the attention of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who was working with the Falcons as an offensive coordinator. She was hired as an assistant coach for the 2017 season.
In an interview with Outsports, Sowers says 49ers general manager Scott Pioli was aware of her sexual identity when he hired her.
“My orientation first came up with Scott Pioli who is the assistant GM for the Atlanta Falcons prior to my internship. At first, I was nervous to tell him as many are in new environments, but it came up in an everyday conversation about my family and life back home in Kansas City,” Sowers, who came out to her family in college, says. “I could not have asked for a more open-minded and accepting group of people to work with. I never once felt judged and I was treated just like anyone would want to be treated: as a typical person working to build a career.”
Sowers is now only the second woman to be a full-time assistant coach with the NFL. Kathryn Smith was the first in 2016 as a special teams quality control coach for the Buffalo Bills.
When asked if an openly gay male coach could ever be accepted in the NFL, Sowers believes it’s all about the work someone does not their sexuality.
“I do believe that an openly gay male coach would be accepted just like anyone else. What most people need to remember is that the NFL is a place of work for these players and it is a job that provides for their families. They are professionals and what you will find is they act like professionals in everything they do,” Sowers says.
However, Sowers says the first step towards more out coaches in the NFL is fostering an environment, like the one she was given, to be open about who they are.
“No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are,” Sowers told CBS Sports. “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.”