In an interview with Fox Sports 1’s “Fair Game with Kristine Leahy,” San Francisco 49ers Assistant Coach Katie Sowers talked about how she might have wound up as a basketball coach if not for homophobia, and about the NFL team that turned Sowers away, because she’s a woman.
Although Sowers was the first out member of the LGBTQ community to coach in the NFL, she was not the first woman. But even so, an executive at one of the teams where she interviewed — who she would not name — was skittish about hiring someone female for 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 — that their organization was not yet ready to have a woman on staff,” she told Leahy.
”[The executive] went on to say that one of the coaches came up to him and said, ‘Where are we going to put her desk? ‘He said, ’Where we put everyone else’s desk.’ But that was another indicator to him that this organization is far from being ready.”
Sowers said that wasn’t easy to hear, but it’s better than being lied to.
“Although I hated hearing that, I loved the honesty,” Sowers said. ”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. 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.
“It’s not the words that we need to change, it’s the mindset.”
Although Sowers was mum about that executive and his team, she talked effusively about her girlhood love for football, as well as running track and especially basketball at Indiana’s Goshen College, a Mennonite school.
Goshen was also where she first found the ambition to coach, as Sowers first told Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski in 2017. Unfortunately, that dream died quickly because of homophobia.
“What he told me was that because of my lifestyle, he didn’t want me around his team. And when I was on his team, he was someone that I would protect, but now that I’m not, there’s not much he can do about it. And there were prospective students’ parents that were concerned that if there was a lesbian coach, their daughter might ‘catch the gay’ or whatever it might be, because people might think it’s contagious or whatever it was. But for some reason, they didn’t want me around.”
That reason, to Sowers, was ignorance rooted in religion.
“Oftentimes, religion is a good excuse to discriminate,” Sowers told Leahy. “I was never angry. I was never mad at the coach. I was more sad at the ignorance, more sad at the discrimination I felt because of it.”