The Untold Truth Of Katie Sowers

On Feb. 2, 2020, Katie Sowers became the first woman and openly gay person to coach in a Super Bowl. An offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers, Sowers' team didn't pull out a victory, but her presence on the sidelines was a victory to many. 

"Truly, a lot of the energy that I feed off of when I feel like the hours get long and it's tiring or emotionally draining, it's those young girls that I think about," Sowers said during the NFL's Opening Night for Super Bowl LIV (via ESPN). "I've had so many good ones. I had a girl who had my same last name that wrote to me. It was pretty cool, and she loves sports and she's so excited to see a woman with her same last name coaching."

But while Sowers is now standing tall in the NFL coaching ranks, her road to getting there was difficult. So, huddle up and let's run the untold truth of Katie Sowers.

Katie Sowers came out publicly in 2017

While Katie Sowers was already living openly in her private life, she came out publicly as lesbian during a 2017 interview with Outsports. Her decision to discuss her sexual orientation, which made her the first openly LGBTQ+ coach regardless of gender, was about being honest with herself. 

"No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are," Sowers told the publication. "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."

As a leader on the practice field, Sowers chose to lead in helping to usher in an era of LGBTQ+ acceptance in the NFL, as well as society. "The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion," she continued, "the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

How much is Katie Sowers being paid?

In the salary cap era, all 32 NFL teams are allotted the same amount of money to pay their entire roster. Some teams do a great job of managing their cap space, but every year we see stars cut by their respective teams for cap relief. However, the salaries of NFL coaches and assistants are not bound by those constraints. 

Although NFL head coaches grab headlines with their contracts, the NFL isn't legally obligated to release the salaries of their coaching staff. So, how much does Sowers make? Well, we can only really guess. "Only three years ago, the average salary for assistant coaches was in the $150,000-$175,000 range," ESPN reported in 2008. "There are position coaches now pulling in $400,000 or more per season." Meanwhile, Career Trend reported in 2019 that assistant coaches "average between $200,000 and $300,000" annually.

By any estimate, Sowers is doing well for herself, and any NFL salary would be 100 percent more than what she earned while playing in the Women's Football Alliance in 2013. According to CNN, "there are no salaries" in that league, as the women "pay to play" simply "for the love of the game."

The players love Katie Sowers

As an openly gay woman, some might be led to believe that Katie Sowers would be unable to connect with players in what is perceived to be a hyper-masculine sport, but that's far from the case. The San Francisco 49ers team absolutely love her. 

"She's been tremendous," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo told San Francisco's CBS 5. "Katie was here before I was, but just what she does with the receivers, all the skill positions guys, how she interacts with them. It's special. She's feisty man. Katie is awesome out there. She'll get after guys ... It's fun to be around." Meanwhile, wide receiver Dante Pettis said that Sowers is there for the X's and O's, as well as emotional support. "There's a lot of times where, like, if we have questions about a play, we can ask her, and she always helps," Pettis told "And there's times where she'll check in on me if I have a tough game or whatever. She's always saying, 'You good?' and 'Just know you're important to this team,' and stuff like that. It's pretty cool to have someone like that around every day."

Similarly, wide receiver Richie James praised Sowers' love of the game and infectious personality: "She loves the game as much as we do. You gotta respect it ... And she's really funny, to be honest with you, and she can relate to us more than you'd think."

Katie Sowers lost a coaching job due to her sexuality

During her interview with Outsports, Katie Sowers revealed that she was once turned down for a volunteer basketball coaching job in college over her sexuality. "I was told 'because of your lifestyle, we ask that you do not come around the team,'" she said. "That moment really impacted me because it was the first time I truly felt judged because of my sexual orientation."

In January 2020, Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus released a statement apologizing to Sowers, claiming that the school instituted a non-discrimination policy after Sowers' departure. "We are very proud of all that our alumna Katie Sowers '09, an assistant coach for the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers, has achieved in her life and the ways that she leads on and off the football field with authenticity, grace and excellence," the statement read (via NBC Sports). "Sadly, in 2009, our policies and the laws of Indiana allowed for hiring decisions to consider sexual orientation. I am glad that Goshen College adopted a new non-discrimination policy in 2015, and I am thankful for the leaders before me who brought this change about, not the least of whom were our students and alumni."

Sowers responded to the apology by saying that she "loved" her time at Goshen College, but felt experiencing that discrimination was "a detour that put me on a path to where I am now."

One NFL team wasn't 'ready' for a woman coach

During a 2019 interview on Fox Sports 1's Fair Game with Kristine Leahy, Katie Sowers revealed that an "unnamed NFL executive" once told her his team wasn't prepared to add a woman to its coaching staff. "They felt the 49ers, because they knew how it was to have a woman on staff, that it'd be a better fit for me," Sowers explained (via USA Today), "that their organization was not yet ready to have a woman on staff."

Sowers went on to explain how this made her work even harder to fulfill her dream: "Although I hated hearing that, I loved the honesty. Because it meant that the words that he was saying was coming from the foundation of ignorance of the organization. But he understood the ignorance." She added, "Oftentimes we get caught up in what's politically correct and hearing all these words that make us feel better ... when often it could be lies. I'd rather hear the truth and ignorance. That's where we create change."

This NFL coach is ready to accomplish her ultimate dream

While Katie Sowers is still an offensive assistant coach, as of this writing, don't think for a minute that she's about to stop there — because she's ready to go all the way to the top. Speaking to NBC Sports in 2020, Sowers revealed that she could "absolutely" become a head coach in the NFL, and was already actively working toward that goal: "Wherever I can impact the game, I will continue to work and to be the best I can be and if that opportunity comes up, and that's where I will truly be a game-changer, that's the step I'll take."

During Super Bowl LIV's media week, Sowers used her experience of being discriminated against and her team's resiliency in reaching the big game as examples to prove that anything can happen. "Look at me now," she said. "Look at us now. All these guys up here, all these coaches, they've been doubted in their lives. They've faced adversity. We all have. All you can do is just continue to grind, continue to work and show everybody what you're capable of."

Katie Sowers: 'I want to make sure I'm not the last'

Despite having several disadvantages stacked against her, Katie Sowers became an NFL coach. Speaking of the "long road ahead" of her to get there, she told The Washington Post in 2020, "I didn't have the opportunity to play on a college team. I didn't have the opportunity to break down film. I didn't have the opportunity to network like a lot of people did. But I was up for the challenge."

Although she fought hard to achieve her dream and become a trailblazer in the league, Sowers added, "I'm waiting for someone to tell me this is all a joke, and they're going to be like, 'Sike — you're not really there; you're not really a football coach.' It's one of those things that, you really start to look around you and take advantage of every single day."

But just like with everything else in Sowers' life, she's using this opportunity and her position to help pave the way for others. "You have to have a first for everything to create change," she said. "But I want to make sure I'm not the last."

The impact of Katie Sowers' Super Bowl commercial

Microsoft's Super Bowl LIV commercial, "Be the One," celebrated Katie Sowers by showing her journey from a young girl who loved football to becoming an NFL coach. In the minute-long ad, Sowers reads her childhood journals, as a clip of her playing football in the backyard cuts to her on the field coaching the San Francisco 49ers. "I always knew I wanted to be a coach. My dad was a coach. I never saw an opportunity in football, because I had never seen a female coach before," Sowers says in the commercial. "People tell me that people aren't ready to have a woman lead, but these guys have been learning from women their whole lives."

Not only did the Super Bowl ad celebrate the first woman to coach in the NFL, but it also brought much-needed LGBTQ+ inclusion to "advertising's biggest night," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "GLAAD has long been advocating for brands to feature LGBTQ people in ads and we cannot wait for American families to see and cheer on so many diverse LGBTQ icons — it's about time," Ellis continued. 

At the time of this writing, Sowers' commercial has more than 14 million views on YouTube.