This Years Super Bowl Firsts
By Ben Blazel
With the 2020-2021 NFL season officially coming to an end, there have been a lot of monumental moments to look back on this year that represent football becoming more inclusive to all. While the NFL still has a lot more they need to do from an equality standpoint, Super Bowl LV consisted of many firsts. These firsts transpired both on the field and the sidelines, and represent an exciting shift in the future of football.
Super Bowl LV was a star studded match up between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians has the most diverse coaching staff in NFL history. Since taking over the Buccaneers in January of 2019, Arians has prioritized building a coaching staff that is inclusive to all, and he has certainly kept his promise. The Buccaneers are the only team in the NFL to have Black coaches at all four coordinator positions (offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, and run game coordinator/assistant coach Harold Goodwin). The Buccaneers are also the only team in the NFL with two female full-time coaches (assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Maral Javadifar). According to sportscasting.com, in the NFL, “less than 15% of the head coaches are Black” in a league where “65% of the players are Black.” This is a major issue in the NFL, and one at which coaches like Bruce Arians’ efforts are working to end. Bruce Arians has built something beautiful down in Tampa and it is time that other head coaches around the league take notice and do the same. Watching this historic coaching staff take the field added even more importance to the game.
While the final result may have been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-9 and Tom Brady winning his seventh Super Bowl ring, all of that felt less important. La Follette senior and football enthusiast Ben Daly agreed. He was excited to have witnessed all of the historic moments the game had to offer. “The NFL is an organization that is successful due to the players, the majority of which are African American. It is great to see the progress that the league is making in terms of diversifying the coaching sector” Daly (12) said. Daly, like many, understood the importance of what this game represented.
Also, in Super Bowl LV, we witnessed the first female referee in Super Bowl history. Sarah Thomas is one of the best referees in the business, and the first woman to ever be chosen to officiate a Super Bowl. Thomas is no stranger to making history, though. In 2015, she became the first full-time female referee in NFL history. That being said, Thomas knows just how important her Super Bowl achievement is. When asked how she felt after hearing the news, she said “knowing the impact I'm having on, not just my daughter, but young girls everywhere, women everywhere. And I have to add in young men and men too. I have two precious young men that I'm raising to be a partner with their spouse and respect [that] she's a hardworking woman." A truly inspiring message.
While the NFL is still lightyears behind where it should be, the advancements we have seen in the league this year are definitely promising. Super Bowl Bowl LV put several of these advancements on full display, and it certainly was a historic night.