Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ female coaches speak out about making history at Super Bowl
By KATIE KINDELAN and SARAH RUSSELL, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — History will be made at this year’s Super Bowl, and it will be made by women.
Six women will have on-field roles on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, Florida.
In addition to NFL referee Sarah Thomas becoming the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl, this year’s game will also feature females in scouting assistant and assistant trainer roles.
And two women will be coaching for the same team, a first in Super Bowl history.
The Buccaneers are the only NFL team this season with two full-time coaches that are female — assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar.
“My dad and my mom were both in tears, and happy tears,” Javadifar told ABC News’ Kayna Whitworth of her parents’ reaction to her reaching the Super Bowl. “They were extremely ecstatic, and it was nice to share that opportunity.”
Javadifar’s parents are Iranian immigrants who fled Iran after the revolution and came to the U.S. hoping for a brighter future.
After a childhood in the U.S., Javadifar, known as MJ, became a college basketball player who went on to earn a doctorate in physical therapy along with a degree in molecular biology.
Her expertise in body mechanics made her a perfect fit for the Buccaneers, with whom she is coaching her second season.
“We’re not just happy to be here,” she said of the Super Bowl berth. “We’re continuing to prepare to win.”
Locust, a mother of two sons, started playing semi-professional football at age 40 and then, sidelined with an injury, began coaching, working her way up from smaller football leagues to the NFL.
When she coached at the semi-pro level, she began attending coaching symposiums where she was the only women in a room of 600 men. In some instances, the organizers even taped over the women’s bathroom door and made it a men’s room because they never had any women there.
In 2018, Locust served as a defensive line coaching intern for the Baltimore Ravens during the team’s training camp.
Locust — who has a nearly four-decade history with the Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians, who coached Locust’s ex-husband at Temple University — is also in her second season coaching for the team.
“I think it was necessary,” Locust said of her long road to reaching the Super Bowl. “I think that it allows me to appreciate being here a lot more because I know what it took to get here.”
When it comes to making history at the Super Bowl, when Tom Brady will go for his seventh title, both Locust and Javadifar said they plan to just focus on doing their jobs, like every other coach on the field.
“I just don’t want to be a disruption. I want to be in addition, I want to be a value,” said Locust. “But I don’t want the exceptions. I don’t want the special treatment. Football has to be the focus.”
But it will not go unnoticed that these two women are on the sidelines Sunday, especially among the NFL’s fans, 47% of which are women, according to the league.
“To me, if there’s going to be any influence, it would be women that are my age saying not what if, but why not,” said Locust. “And really taking a second to find out what it is that they feel passionate about.”
Javadifar said she hopes her presence at Sunday’s game is a reminder of “equal opportunity for all.”
“I do truly hope that women being in the Super Bowl or being in professional sports ends up not being newsworthy anymore,” she said. “It goes back to having equal opportunity for all and that is our ultimate goal.”
Backing up Javadifar and Locust off the field are several women in leadership positions for the Buccaneers, including the team’s co-owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz.
With Kassewitz’s leadership, the Buccaneers were the first NFL team to establish a scholarship program benefiting female high school football players.
“There is a global shift that’s happening in sports and it’s amazing,” said Javadifar.
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