History Was Made in the NFL With 2 Women Coaching on the Sidelines and 1 Female Referee
Update: The historic game on Sept. 27 where Jennifer King and Callie Brownson coached from the NFL sidelines and official Sarah Thomas was a referee is now commemorated in the Pro Football Hall of Hame in Canton, OH. All three signed a media flip card that has its own display box. Also included in the display box are a whistle, a hat, and a penalty flag. You can see a photo of the display here.
Brownson wrote on Twitter, "Hard to find words. 5 year old Callie couldn't imagine something like this, but now girls and women everywhere can. If she can see it she can be it. Can't wait to see this next generation of game changers." King added, "Definitely honored to experience that moment with those two awesome women."
Original post: An NFL matchup on Sunday, Sept. 27, marked the first time in league history that, at a regular season game, each team's coaching staff included a woman and there was a woman on the field officiating. On the sidelines were Jennifer King, a full-year intern with the Washington Football Team, and Callie Brownson, the Cleveland Browns' chief of staff. NFL official Sarah Thomas took to the field as the down judge.
Thomas became the NFL's first full-time female official in 2015, and she became the first woman ever to officiate an NFL playoff game on Jan. 13, 2019, when she acted as the down judge for an American Football Conference divisional-round matchup between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers. Before her history-making position in the NFL, Thomas was the first woman to officiate a major college football game and the first to officiate a bowl game, and she was also the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium. Her position changed from head linesman to down judge in 2017, according to The Washington Post, to accommodate a more gender-neutral term.
King became the first Black female to coach in the NFL when Washington hired her back in February. She previously interned with the Carolina Panthers during the 2018 and 2019 offseasons and was a quality control coach at Dartmouth College. She also acted as an assistant receivers coach and special teams assistant for the Alliance of American Football's Arizona Hotshots (this league has since shut down) in between her internships with the Panthers. King was notably a seven-time All-American quarterback and receiver for the Women's Football Alliance's Carolina Phoenix, playing for them from 2006 to 2017, before she was a member of the New York Sharks in 2018 and the DC Divas in 2019.
Brownson, who also made history on Sept. 27 at the Washington-Browns game, is Dartmouth's first female quality control coach to make it to the NFL. She was the first full-time female football coach in Division I and got hired by the Buffalo Bills in 2019 as a coaching intern before stepping into her role as the Cleveland Browns' chief of staff in 2020. She additionally played eight seasons for the DC Divas.
"What a day for football. What a day for those up next. Humbled," Brownson tweeted, later thanking Washington head coach Ron Rivera and Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski for fighting for diversity and equality in the sport. The Browns defeated Washington 34 to 20, but both teams won on the sidelines, if you asked us!