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Kicked out of the men's basketball league, Sarah Thomas set her sights on the Super Bowl

February 19, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 22.1%. 2 min read.

The lyrics are soaring and defiant: "And I'll rise up. I'll rise like the day! I'll rise up. I'll rise unafraid!"

Thomas' aunt was the basketball coach Jill Upton, who led the American women's team to Moscow and a silver medal at the World University Games in 1973.

Thomas says she became the first girl to play in the Pascagoula City League, playing through middle and high school.

Thomas had been playing in a church league for three years when a decision was made that altered the entire trajectory of her life.

According to Thomas, the objecting player had said, "When she posts us up or I post her up, it just feels funny. " She had little sympathy for his argument, putting words around a situation that nobody else had the courage to say.

Thomas can't remember the first time she watched a Super Bowl; football was just such an intrinsic part of her life from a very early age.

Thomas worked her first varsity high school game in 1999 and by 2006, she was appearing on the NFL's radar.

As Thomas progressed in her career, more history was made; she became the first female to referee in a Big Ten stadium -- as a line judge for Northwestern University against Rice University in '07.

In 2019, she was the first woman to wear the zebra stripes in a playoff game, and in 2021, having successfully managed to avoid contracting Covid-19, Thomas finally made it to the Super Bowl.

Very few referees or officials want to be the center of attention -- typically, the fans will only know your name if you've made a bad call and ended up in the news -- and Thomas was no different.

"He said 'I've coached in this league for a long time and I have two daughters, and they think they know more about football now because of you, not because I'm their dad and the coach. ' That's when it hit me. "

Thomas says she found Locust before the game and Javadifar afterwards, hugging and thanking each other for what they have achieved.

Thomas told Javadifar that, hopefully soon, such trailblazing won't be a novelty -- it will be the norm.

Thomas says it's just as important, though, for young men to recognize those achievements and strive for equality in society.

Certainly, her sons have the utmost respect for their mom, with one texting Thomas after the game to declare her 'the GOAT' (greatest of all time).

Sarah Thomas knows that her life journey hasn't always been straightforward or the most pleasant at times, but she wouldn't change one bit of it.

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