Start your day (and Symposium week) off right. Don't miss Opening Breakfast where the newest Hall of Fame class will be inducted, we'll announce the host destinations for the 2027 and 2028 Symposium, and for those of you who joined us in 2022, we'll have a follow up conversation with Sarah Thomas! In 2015, Sarah was named the first full time female official in NFL History. Listen to her amazing journey that began back in 1996 and continues to this day as she continues to break barriers.
Oh, and before breakfast is over, there will be a top secret, super special surprise!
Keynote Speaker: Sarah Thomas
On April 8, 2015, Sarah Thomas was one of nine new game officials added to the NFL officiating roster for the 2015 season, becoming the first full-time female official in NFL history. Her history-making game happened on September 13, 2015 between Kansas City and Houston. Her hat, whistle and flag from that game are now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
She began her football officiating career in 1996 when she attended a meeting for aspiring football officials with her brother, Lea. She worked 10 years in high school, doing as many pee-wee, middle school and junior varsity games as she could possibly do. In 2007, she was hired by Conference USA. This was another history-making milestone as Sarah became the first female
to officiate for the NCAA’s Major College Football Bowl Division. The hard work allowed her the opportunity to work numerous bowl games, championship games and All-Star games, giving her exposure to NFL officials who were scouting other officials.
Being hired in 2015 was only the first step. Sarah just completed her 7th season in the NFL as a Down Judge. In early January 2019, it was announced that Sarah would make history again as the first female to officiate a postseason NFL game. Sarah worked the divisional round game between the LA Chargers and New England Patriots on January 13, 2019, and has earned a postseason assignment every year since. She reached the pinnacle during the 2020 season when she shattered the glass ceiling as she was selected to work Super Bowl LV in Tampa, FL. Making her the first female to ever work a Super Bowl.
Off the field, Sarah is a Marketing Specialist for Mid-South Rehab, Inc., National Speaker for Keppler Speakers Bureau and a skin care consultant for Rodan & Fields. She was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi and is a graduate of the University of Mobile, where she earned a full scholarship as a basketball player and Academic All-American honors. She has had many national recognitions on her accomplishments throughout her journey, but one is at the top of these accomplishments – being named one of Sports Illustrated’s 100 Most Influential Figures of All Time. But nothing compares to being a mom to her three beautiful children, Bridley (22), Brady (19) and Bailey (10).
Kathy Nelson is a nationally recognized leader in the sports and tourism industries. As the CEO and President of the Kansas City Sports Commission, where’s she’s led her team for over a decade, and as the CEO and President of Visit KC, Kathy works to promote Kansas City locally and nationally with the goal of attracting, retaining and facilitating sports events, conventions and organizations in the bi-state area. She has earned numerous accolades, including Telly, Emmy and cable television awards for her work in broadcast journalism, specifically sports production. Kathy has also received the following honors: She was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2020 and named one of the 50 Most Influential People in Kansas City Sports History.In 2022, Kathy was selected as one of the inaugural Lieutenant Governor’s Women of Achievement for the state of Missouri.And earlier this year, she was recognized as the Missouri honoree for USA Today’s “Woman of the Year” list. In addition to a busy spring, which included the Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship and an NCAA Men’s Midwest Regional, Kathy and her teams at the Kansas City Sports Commission and Visit KC recently completed work on the largest event in Kansas City history: the 2023 NFL Draft.