This Sunday, San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers will make history as the first woman and first openly gay person to coach at the Super Bowl. As a college student, Sowers was turned down for a volunteer coaching position due to her sexual orientation. Over 10 years later, the college has finally apologized.
Sowers attended Goshen College, a private liberal arts school affiliated with the Mennonite church in Indiana. Sowers played basketball on a scholarship, and when her scholarship ran out, she asked to stay with the team as a volunteer coach.
“My coach called me in and said they have a lot of parents that have been worried about their daughter being around someone who is gay,” Sowers recalls in an NBC Sports video. “That’s not something they would want around the team.”
The coach hugged her and told her it was nothing personal. Nonetheless, Sowers was “extremely upset,” she says.
Of course, Sowers ultimately used this obstacle to propel her career forward in other ways. She ended up switching gears to football, her first love, and later became the second woman to ever coach full-time in the NFL. She’s now in her third season with the 49ers.
Last week, Goshen College released a statement of apology to Sowers, NBC Sports reports. The college adopted a new non-discrimination policy in 2015.
“Sadly, in 2009, our policies and the laws of Indiana allowed for hiring decisions to consider sexual orientation,” Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus wrote.
“While we cannot go back and change history, justice calls us to stand up now and say that the way Goshen College treated Katie’s offer to coach was hurtful and wrong. I express on behalf of the institution our profound apologies to Katie Sowers and to all others who have not been welcomed here, simply because of who they are.”
Sowers responded to the statement, explaining that she “loved” her time at the school despite that one upsetting incident.
“This moment was tough, but the reality is we all experience rejection and adversity in our lives,” she told NBC Sports. “When, not if, we go through these moments of adversity, we can view them as road blocks and feel sorry for ourselves or we can view them as a part of our story. I prefer to see what happened to me as a detour that put me on a path to where I am now.”
The 49ers will face off against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, February 2 at 6:30 p.m. EST.