There have been at least three publicly out gay, lesbian, bi and trans coaches in the NFL.
While there are many publicly out LGBTQ coaches in the WNBA and other women’s sports leagues, the major men’s pro sports leagues have lagged. Thankfully, given the efforts of people like Scott Pioli, Bruce Arians, Sam Rapoport and others, opportunities for women, as well as gay and bi men, to coach in the NFL continue to expand.
These publicly out LGBTQ coaches in the NFL have each inspired others to be their true selves, whether it be privately or publicly.
We celebrate these trailblazers.
Katie Sowers, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs
Sowers will forever be a trailblazer in this space, a gay football coach who was willing to come out publicly before anyone else.
With Sowers on staff, the 49ers went to Super Bowl LIV, losing to the Kansas Citiy Chiefs, who under head coach Andy Reid would give Sowers another shot at coaching.
Sowers now leads the Italian women’s flag football team, just a few years ahead of the sport making its Summer Olympics debut in Los Angeles in 2028.
Callie Brownson, Cleveland Browns
Brownsons hasn’t been at the forefront of being publicly out as an NFL coach, but Brownson hasn’t hidden it, either. When Outsports was considering Brownson for our Outsports Power 100 last year, she said through the NFL that she was OK with being considered but didn’t want to do an interview.
And we love that! Everyone has their own journey, and Brownson has hers, which we totally respect. Particularly when Brownson focuses on doing her job as an assistant wide receivers coach for the Browns, who made it to the NFL Playoffs for only the second time since 2002.
And sharing this on social media certainly doesn’t hurt...
Not everyone wants to talk about their personal life in a professional milieu. Brownson is very happy being an out wide receivers coach with the Cleveland Browns, doing her job, and not worrying about a lot of the rest of it.
Just being out in this way is enough for Brownson, and that’s enough for us.
Brownson has previously coached at Dartmouth, and she was previously a coaching intern with the Buffalo Bills.
Kevin Maxen, Jacksonville Jaguars
In 2023, Maxen came out publicly in an Outsports article, making him the first publicly out male coach in major men’s pro sports in North America, if not the world.
When Outsports first talked with Maxen in 2022, he just wanted to live his life without fear. Nothing special.
In July 2023, Outsports’ story about Maxen made major national headlines, earning him Outsports’ Person of the Year honors. Since then he has felt able to talk publicly about his boyfriend with no reservation.
Sophia Lewin, Buffalo Bills
Lewin was out as queer to their fellow coaches and people in the Buffalo Bills organization when they coached there for the 2021 season.
Lewin has since coached football at Princeton and is now at Kutztown University, which advanced to the NCAA Division II National Semifinals.
There have been other LGBTQ coaches in the NFL, but Outsports respects their desire to keep to themselves and share their personal journey when they are ready.