For nearly a century, football was considered a man’s sport.
That all started to change in the 70’s when women began moving from local sports reporting to the national level. In 1975, CBS promoted Phyllis George, who was hired as a sportscaster the year before, to sit alongside Brent Musberger, Irv Cross, and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder on The NFL Today, becoming one of the first women to have a prominent role in television sports coverage. She is recognized as the first woman to cover football for a major network in a permanent role.
Phyllis George Is A Pioneer For Women In Sports
Many women came after George in a role as a broadcaster both on radio and TV, but only one has the distinction of being the first and only woman to do play-by-play in a televised NFL game: Gayle Sierens.
Sierens was hired as a sports broadcaster at the NBC affiliate in Tampa and later became the news anchor – a role she held for an astounding 38 years until she retired in 2015. In the mid-1980’s, NBC Sports executive producer Mike Weisman had an idea: he wanted to hire a woman to do play-by-play in a regular season NFL game. After seeing Sieren’s footage, he hired her to do play-by-play for the December 27, 1987 season finale between the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I used to say that I kicked down the door, but no one else came in,” Sierens told The New York Times in 2009. “But I think that day is nearing. I really do.”
Sierens Was The First And Only Woman To Do NFL Play-By-Play
Throughout the last 30 years women have become more prominent in the world of football broadcasting, but no woman had really broken through onto the field until 2015…sort of.
In January 2014, former Boston College rugby player Jen Welter became the second female football player in a position other than kicker or placeholder on a men’s professional football team when the Texas Revolution of the Champion’s Indoor Football league signed her to the team as a running back.
Jen Welter Led The Charge
A year later, the Revolution hired Welter as their new linebackers and special teams coach, making her the first woman to coach in a men’s professional football league.
On July 27, 2015, the Arizona Cardinals hired Welter as an assistant coaching intern for training camp and the preseason. This made her the first female coach in NFL history.
Since her internship expired, two other women have made the history books in the NFL. On April 8, 2015, Sara Thomas was hired as the first full-time female official in NFL history.
That following January, the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as the NFL’s first female full-time coach naming her as a special teams quality control coach.
Becca Longo has made football history all over again.