TAMPA, Fla. (KOIN) — Regardless of who wins Super Bowl LV, history will be made on the field thanks to Sarah Thomas, the first female to officiate a Super Bowl championship game.
Sarah Thomas is the latest in a line of women who are shattering ceilings and blazing trails for the women who come after them, and the NFL is making it abundantly clear that women belong in football.
On Tuesday, the NFL and Nike announced a campaign dedicating $5 million to promoting and creating space for girls flag football across the country. Right now, there are just six states where girls can play flag football at the high school level, which the National Federation of State High School Association says means 1 million fewer girls have an opportunity to play a high school sport than boys.
“The lessons that you learned, the life skills that you get, the opportunity that you get to understand teamwork from a young age especially in places where maybe there aren’t a whole lot of other opportunities to do so, these are all really important things and 1 million — that’s a huge number,” Cynthia Frelund, a NFL media analytics expert, said.
Florida is one of the states with girls flag football and on Wednesdsay, several of the area teams faced off at the Super Bowl Experience in Downtown Tampa.
“When you hear flag football, a lot of people think ‘Oh like what’s it like to be a part of a man’s sport?'” Isansa Bonga, a junior high school flag football player, said. “My response is always football is not a man’s sport, it’s just dominated by them.”
As they create space for women to play the game, they’ve also invested in a website to showcase the avenues women can pursue to have a career in football, featuring women such as journalist Mina Kimes, VP of Football Business Ops and Strategy Natara Holloway and NFL Media’s first female analytics expert Cynthia Frelund.
The $5 million Nike is committing will be doled out in increments of $100,000 worth of product to state athletic associations that offer girls flag football as a high school sport, or show they’re working toward creating a pilot program.
The Buccaneers also got in on the act by retweeting Nike’s announcement with the hashtag #FootballIsFemale.