BY AMY TENNERY
When the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers take the field on Sunday, new ground will be broken with this year’s Super Bowl being the first to feature two teams with women owners.
With Denise York helping lead the Niners as co-owner and co-chair and Norma Hunt the matriarch of the Chiefs, Super Bowl LIV will represent a small crack in the glass ceiling of the overwhelmingly male-dominated world of pro football.
“We say football is about family, and we have two of the best in sports in this Super Bowl,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Wednesday. “They happen to be led by women — the first match-up of its kind.”
Chiefs’ co-owner Hunt, the so-called ‘First Lady of Football’, is the only woman to have attended every one of the 53 Super Bowls and hopes to see her team lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in half a century.
The widow of the late Lamar Hunt, the man who founded the team and coined the term “Super Bowl,” Norma told the Kansas City Star in a rare interview that the long wait since the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV triumph in 1970 was testament to the league’s competitiveness.
“It just shows how hard it is to get there (to the Super Bowl) and how important it is to take advantage of the opportunities when they come along,” said Hunt, whose son Clark co-owns the team and acts as its CEO.
York, a billionaire businesswoman who oversees the Niners alongside husband John and son Jed, had previously served as the president of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
Another female trailblazer in Sunday’s match is San Francisco’s offensive assistant Katie Sowers, who will be the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl.
Sarah Axelson, who heads up advocacy at the Women’s Sports Foundation, said that the teams’ female ownership was a meaningful development on top of the impact that Sowers had made on the coaching side.
“They might, to some, feel like incremental steps but to make progress there need to be steps along the way,” said Axelson.
“We’re excited to see increased representation of women in football both on the coaching front and on the ownership front.”