MAKERS 2021 Kickoff Event - Abby Wambach & Sarah Thomas

MAKERS 2021 Kickoff Event - Abby Wambach & Sarah Thomas

Video Transcript

ABBY WAMBACH: Hello MAKERS community! Oh my gosh. Thank you for having me. It is great to be here. Did you all watch the Super Bowl this weekend? If you did, you know history was made on the field with the very first female referee, Sarah Thomas. Sarah, Abby here. How's it going?

SARAH THOMAS: What's happening, Abby? Look, here we are. My pleasure to speak to you.

ABBY WAMBACH: Oh my gosh. Listen, watching the Super Bowl was so fun this year because I knew we were going to be talking to each other. And so I have never been looking more for a referee in all of my life. Thank you for changing the game and actually making it a little bit more interesting as the game went on. The football kind of sucked, but you did awesome.

I actually had to say this before we get into the questions. Dyllan texted me during the game. She was like, where is Sarah? Where is Sarah Thomas? Why aren't they showing her more? And I said, you know, in the world of sport, the less you know a referee is there, that means they are doing their job perfectly. So you did it perfectly. We kept seeing you on the top of the screen.

But I want to jump in and just ask. You know, it's been 72 hours since you went through pretty something extraordinary, walking out of that tunnel, working the Super Bowl. Like what was that like? And do you find yourself going back to a specific memory?

SARAH THOMAS: You know, Abby, it's crazy for you to be asking me those questions. Because you yourself and me listening to your journey just makes me go, how did-- how did you do it? All the memories that you had when you walked through that tunnel. I looked at this game knowing the magnitude that it was. I mean, it's the Super Bowl, the biggest stage in sports. And so I approached it just like any other game, right? I mean, every week to us in the NFL is a Super Bowl.

And you're right, when it comes to the officials, you don't want to be seen. And I joke about this, but this is who I was as a player. I hated the officials. Because I was that player. I was aggressive. I would push the limit as much as I could until they called it. Yeah, I'll get four fouls, all right, well, I'll tiptoe around maybe get in the fifth or whatever it is.

But I hated the officials. And they hated me. But all of that to say is every week in the NFL is our Super Bowl. And so this was the Super Bowl. And I just had to go back on I ranked out number one at my position. So I've earned the right to be here on this crew with all of these guys. And I just knew, I just knew my daughter was in the stands and my two boys were there. And knowing that this is happening, this glass ceiling or grass ceiling is shattered forever. And if not only my daughter, but I always say my two sons, I'm raising them to respect their partner as an equal. And if you dare ask them what is for supper and she's working as hard as you are, I will still whip your tail. You know, it's like you know where the grocery store is. You know how to work a microwave. And I'm raising them to respect their partners.

ABBY WAMBACH: Oh my gosh, I can-- I mean, I feel a little weepy thinking about your kids sitting in the stands watching mommy down there. You know, now that I'm a parent, I think about the impact we have and what you just said about your daughter, and I think in a lot of ways, maybe even more importantly, your sons, and the way that they are witnessing a different form of feminism, of watching a mother go through life then what has been kind of sold to us in this country. It's incredible what you're doing, my goodness.

All right, you have mentioned that having bricks thrown at you before and those bricks are what you build your foundation with. What has been the most important lesson you've learned from one of those bricks? Can you explain that?

SARAH THOMAS: I will tell you, a lot of people ask me, Abby, what is it like to be with all guys? You working in a male-dominated profession. And I believe-- and I've never been asked this question, so I really appreciate you asking me this. I believe that we have to look through our set of eyes that we've been given as not by color or gender or whatever it is, but look at the person that you're working with as an equal. And they will earn the respect of you. You will earn their respect as long as they know that you're all there for the right reason-- not because you're a female, not because you're a male, or whatever your situation is. And so I believe that is probably one of the most monumental things I've learned from the bricks that have been thrown at me. Because I have been that person, as you have. And many of you that are listening is, you know, people judge you just because of your hair color or you're a female or transgender or whatever it may be. You were judged just by the surface, not on your merit. And so we just have to grow. And in this country and being raised in the South and that we need to see people as they are and as an equal. It takes all kinds to run this country. But it doesn't mean we can't be kind to each other and accomplish it.

ABBY WAMBACH: That's good. I love it. All right, so a few years back, you were asked about how you would respond to angry players and coaches. And if this is right, you said silence can never be misquoted. Is this still your approach to this conflict?

SARAH THOMAS: No, I do believe that silence can never be misquoted. And sometimes I have to stay silent, you know, not on the football field, maybe around other types of company. But the biggest form of rejection is ignoring someone. And I have to carry myself in a professional manner. And when a coach or a player asks me a question-- and of course they're going to be passionate about it, you know, express themselves the way that they see fit in the moment. And I appreciate that. It doesn't bother me. But I do address it. And with, you know, you have to be competent to be confident. And that comes with the number of snaps and the games and everything that you get to experience over the years that I've been officiating football. So now me addressing a coach and being able to articulate and rules and everything else if he's asking me a question, I can do it just like that.

Players, again, I go back to my playing days. And I just I know they're upset about something or whatever it may be. On the sideline, it was funny because there was a play and the team was just going, you got it wrong, Sarah, and look up at the jumbotron. And I never looked. And then they went, oh, you got it right, Sarah, good call. You know, but I just address it. And I will tell them-- especially if I know that I've made a mistake, I am not too prideful to go to that coach or that player and go, hey, I looked at the film, you're right, I'll do better, I just didn't see it that way at that moment.

ABBY WAMBACH: And just talking about film for a second, because I know as a pro athlete you're just inundated with data and analysis, how much analysis do you do as a referee?

SARAH THOMAS: A lot, just I approach it just like a pro athlete like you. I mean, I'm handling the pros, right? But we have a lot of film. We have a phenomenal staff that give us training film throughout the week. I watch my game. I go immediately to the files I called and then we write things down constantly. And I go back and look at the suspects that I [? maybe ?] should have called or things that just got my attention. Then I'll watch the full game and then I'll watch it again and then put that to bed after that game. And then when I start picking up the next week's game, I will. I'll look at the game that they played the week before or some, you know, some scouting plays.

And then we have a lot of data that is given to us. And I break it down and look at it. And then you just, you don't go in as an official with any premeditated thoughts on who may do what. But you know the players. You know and, but any given Sunday, any time they go on that field, anything can happen.

ABBY WAMBACH: All right, so being, you know, you're the first woman to referee in a Super Bowl. And being the first at something, I know, comes with a lot of responsibility and pressure. Do you find it to be a burden in any way?

SARAH THOMAS: I would say an explicit, but I would say no, no, not at all. Abby, when you played on the boys team, you were the only girl, I assume, the entire time you probably played. That's where I started. I have two brothers. And I was always playing football or in the dirt [INAUDIBLE] bikes or whatever it may be. And I was the first girl that played on the all boys team basketball and went through and then I played in a men's church league after college. I have found it that it wasn't pressure for me. It wasn't odd for me to be the only girl. I think it was just people being uncomfortable. And I don't want to just single out the men, but there was no pressure for me. I think it was more pressure for them. Like, what is she going to do? Is she going to be able to do this? And they're concerned for me.

But I just find that in anybody, it's their insecurities that they have to deal with. And I think there's more pressure on them than it was me.

ABBY WAMBACH: So your kids, they're watching you from the stands, OK? What do they say to you? What's the first thing they say to you when you see them after Super Bowl?

SARAH THOMAS: So at halftime, I looked. And my son made a comment on a call. And I told him, I said, don't you send me this mess. And so and he said, but, Mom, yours were all good, right. So after the game, they just-- they're like, they're like, I'm their mom, right? I'm the disciplinarian. I'm the one like, what are your grades like? Give me your cell phone. Because you're doing this or whatever. They see me as mom.

They want to get on the field. They want to-- like they want to meet Tom Brady. They want to meet Patrick Mahomes. They want to meet everybody, right? But they did-- they were just-- I did get them on the field, which is crazy. And we did take a picture. And they just said, we're so proud of you. But Abby, it's like they don't, they don't necessarily tell me that so much. But my son Bridley puts something on Instagram about me. And it will go down-- I'll be buried with it, you know? I mean, it's out there for everybody to see. My daughter wrote me a sweet letter that I opened up on Super Bowl Sunday. And then my 17-year-old, he's phenomenal. You know, 6'5", plays baseball, he's a catcher. And he just told me, he said, you're the GOAT, Mom. And I said, I'm not. I said, as long as my kids are proud of me, that's all that matters. Because they've had to go through a lot of sacrifices, you know?

ABBY WAMBACH: I bet. OK, I got one more question then we've got to wrap it up because there's a lot more speakers coming up after us. And just so you know, they ask you to answer the questions the first year. And then they ask you, then MAKERS just comes for you and you will forever be the host or the person who's asking questions. And hopefully you will say yes because Sarah, you're such an inspiration.


ABBY WAMBACH: I have been doing a ton of work in my field since I retired from sport, from scocer, on pay equity. And I would love to know if there is pay equality in your field.

SARAH THOMAS: Yes, I am paid equally as the men. And the NFL did it right. They did it right. And Abby, I'm the type of woman-- and I believe all of you women that are listening-- we have the right to professionally challenge our leaders or the ones that want to hide behind a title of boss for us to be paid equally. And if I weren't, I would be raising a lot of sand.

ABBY WAMBACH: Sarah Thomas, thank you for paving the way for the next generation, for the next woman who might step into a referee uniform and participate in the Super Bowl. Hopefully next year, there'll be more of you. Thank you for being here. We love you. Keep on keeping on, sister. Keep going.


- --great, thank you.