Katie Sowers made history earlier this month when she became the first openly gay NFL coach in history. Sowers, who joined the San Francisco 49ers as an assistant coach, told OutSports that she's publicly discussing her sexuality for the first time because she wants to encourage others to feel comfortable doing the same.
"No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are," Sowers told the outlet. "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."
"The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day," she continued.
Sowers, who is the NFL’s second full-time assistant female coach, is also the only openly LGBT coach in male pro team sports.
Ryan O’Callaghan, a retired offensive tackle for the New England Patriots, came out as gay in June and spoke candidly about how much his sexuality weighed on him when he was in the closet.
"Being gay wasn’t just a small detail in my life, it consumed it. It’s all I would think about. But now that I have come out it rarely crosses my mind. I’d go about my daily life in football, but thinking about hiding it and hoping no one finds out and being ready for any situation was exhausting," O'Callaghan told OutSports. "My plan was to end my life after football. I thought that would be it, and I could never be an out gay man."
Today, he describes life as "great" and hopes that other NFL players don't feel shamed into hiding their sexuality.
"I think teams are ready. Guys just have to understand, he’s gay, but that doesn’t mean he wants to date you, he just wants to be your teammate. It’s not a big deal. It’s really not," O'Callaghan said. "I hope that me coming out will lead to someone else much higher profile coming out. Coming out’s not the end of the world…it will be okay. I’m having a great time, I love life now."
Sowers' presence in the NFL is an encouraging sign that the tide is moving in the right direction. The 31-year-old has been lauded for her strong knowledge of football and what she brings to the team.
"Katie is a baller, 100 percent," receiver Marquise Goodwin told radio station KNBR. "She understands the game. She’s very familiar with the game. She played in a women’s league and it may be a little different, but she definitely has the attitude it takes to be in that room. She brings a great vibe and she understands so I’m happy that she’s on staff."