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“Yes, a gay woman works in the NFL sidelines – but Katie Sowers refuses to be sidelined (USA)

Last fall, a routine question at a press conference left Cam Newton unable to contain himself. Before the reporter even finished her prompt, the Panthers quarterback was struggling to suppress his laughter. Why?

“It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said with a smirk. It wasn’t the question he found so amusing?it was the gender of the person who asked it.

Nobody on the right side of history was laughing alongside Cam Newton.

The past year has delivered long-overdue victories for workplace equality, as #MeToo mashes up with the pace of progress and traditional ceilings to hiring for marginalized groups get smashed?yes, even in the NFL.

Eyes everywhere rolled at Newton’s remark, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan had the most knowing response: “We definitely have a woman who talks about routes all the time.”

Katie Sowers is the NFL’s second full-time female coach, and the only active one, after San Francisco converted her from seasonal intern to full-time offensive assistant last summer. She’s also the league’s first openly LGBT coach, coming out publicly shortly after her hire.

It’s a step forward for gender equity on the big job that is making a pro team work, but this particular gay woman on an NFL sideline is there because it makes football sense.

Sowers played tackle football?for eight years in the Women’s Football Alliance and starred on the U.S. national team. In 2016, she got her NFL start as an intern with the Falcons, where she caught the attention of Shanahan, their offensive coordinator. When the Niners poached him, he poached her.

Sowers spent the 2017 offseason with the 49ers as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship before being offered a full-time gig working with the team’s wide receivers. In March, San Francisco confirmed Sowers will be back on the sidelines this season.

If you think Sowers’ hiring was some sort of PR move, well, she hasn’t talked to the media much at all. And just listen to what her players have to say.

“Katie is a baller, 100 percent,” receiver Marquise Goodwin?said.

“Katie’s been phenomenal,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk?said. “She’s someone we’ve been able to lean on.”



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