San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers, the first publicly out gay coach in NFL history, will not return to the team for the 2021-22 season.
The pro football trailblazer confirmed her exit from the 49ers coaching staff in a text message to the East Bay Times. “I will sadly not be back,” Sowers stated. Sowers alluded to the end of her four-year tenure with the team in an Instagram post as well.
“I don’t know what 2021 has in store but I promise you, it won’t be boring,” she wrote.
The news comes just days after Outsports honored Sowers as its 2020 Person of the Year.
Sowers etched her name into NFL record books in 2017 when the 49ers, under then new head coach Kyle Shanahan, brought her on as a summer intern under the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship. She came out publicly as lesbian on Outsports in August 2017.
“No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are,” Sowers told Outsports in 2017. “The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day.”
The team retained Sowers as a full-time offensive assistant following the internship, making her the first out LGBTQ, and second female, NFL coach in league history. She spent much of her 49ers career working with the team’s receiving corps alongside receivers coach Wes Welker.
Her first regular-season sideline appearance was immortalized at the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the donation of her game binder and coaching shirt in Sept. 2017.
While Sowers’ future is open to new, expanded opportunities, her young career has already left an impact. She appeared in a commercial for Microsoft Surface tablets, the official tablet of the NFL, putting her front and center as a pro football pioneer. She made history again last February when she became the first out LGBTQ person to coach in a Super Bowl.