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Outsports Person of the Year: Katie Sowers

Sowers made her mark on NFL history while being an advocate and role model for LGBTQ people in sports.

Katie Sowers
Katie Sowers is the first woman coach in the Super Bowl and also the first NFL coach who is openly gay.
Shelby Weldon, photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images

Katie Sowers will always be the first.

The first woman to coach in a Super Bowl. The first out gay coach in NFL history.

But she won’t be the last.

For Sowers, 34, 2020 was a year of triumph and great sadness. As an assistant coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Sowers became a media sensation when the 49ers reached the Super Bowl and her place in football history was assured.

It was also a year when she lost her father, a man who nurtured his daughter’s dreams and who, in her words, “taught [his] daughters how to be competitive yet respectful ... to be passionate about our own beliefs, yet open minded to others ... And how to love unconditionally.”

Sowers was more than just a coach, though, as she utilized her platform to advocate for social justice, LGBTQ people in sports as well as becoming a role model for girls and women who have seen their sports horizons expand. As 49ers general manager John Lynch said at the Super Bowl: “I’ve got three daughters. And I think it’s really cool for girls to realize they can dream to do this as well.”

For these reasons, Sowers is the Outsports 2020 Person of the Year.

“I am extremely honored,” she said upon hearing of the award. “This has been a year full of ups and downs. From going to the Super Bowl, to the pandemic, and to losing my dad — this award has been a reminder that we all have the ability to make a difference regardless of the circumstance and I am honored to know that I join a list of such amazing ‘agents of change.’”

During Super Bowl media night, Sowers got more attention than almost any of the 49ers besides coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, highly unusual for any assistant coach who is not a coordinator. She was featured in an ad for Microsoft in January, and in September joined NFL stars such as Marshawn Lynch, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Romo in an ad for Frito-Lay. It was quite a whirlwind for Sowers.

“I believe 2020 helped teach me a lot of things,” Sowers told Outsports. “It helped to reiterate that being visible doesn’t mean just visible through the good times, but visible through the bad as well. 2020 has been a difficult year for so many and it’s important that we do what we can to let people know they are not alone.”

To see all of this year’s Outsports Awards, click here.

Prior Person of the Year Winners

2019: Megan Rapinoe

2018: Adam Rippon

2017: Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan

2016: Duathlete and triathlete Chris Mosier

2015: High school basketball player Dalton Maldonado

2014: NFL draftee Michael Sam