By Dirk Smith, MSc, SDL (He/Him)

As people either cheered or booed the Buccaneers win as Tom Brady took home another championship, the real winner are the important steps forward in diversity and inclusion at the Super Bowl and the NFL in general. Kicking off the night with a clear statement from Alicia Keys signing the “Black National Anthem” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” surrounded by people wearing Black Lives Matter shirts and shirts with the names of the victims of police brutality from 2020.

NFL Pride Logo Courtesy of NFL

In addition, other black female artists took to the stage, including H.E.R. singing an amazing rendition of “America the Beautiful” that is considered the best performance of the night. Most notably was Amanda Gorman who, fresh off the inauguration, kicked off the coin toss with her original poem “Chorus of the Captains.” Speaking of the coin toss, three honorary captains for the coin toss were selected, including Trimaine Davis, a teacher from LA; Suzie Dorner, a nurse; and James Martin, a veteran from Pittsburgh. Finally, the half time show by The Weeknd which has been met with mixed reviews and Sullivan and Church, an unlikely paring of artists also took to the stage with mixed reviews.

On the sports side, six of the eight female coaches in the NFL coached the playoff teams leading up to the Super Bowl. At the big game itself, the Buccaneers are the first team to make it and win the Super Bowl with two women on the coaching staff with Assistant Defensive Line coach Lori Locust in her second season with the Buccaneers and Strength and Conditioning coach Maral Javadifar on her second season as well. In addition, Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate at a Super Bowl.

It has been acknowledged that the NFL has made a lot of progress since they ousted Colin Kaepernick in 2016 for using his platform to peacefully protest police brutality. Kaepernick, who has been unfairly vilified, has also brought national attention to the ongoing issue with systematic racism and police brutality that disproportionally affects people of color. Despite the progress made by the NFL, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that people of color and women have equal opportunity in leadership roles and executive roles for their respective franchises as well as the NFL as a whole. In addition, there is still much to work to be done for the sport to be more open to gay athletes. It’s a step-by-step process and it is certainly good to see the NFL taking steps forward.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons