San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers came out on Tuesday, making her the first openly gay coach in US professional men's sport.
In an interview with Outsports, Sowers, who is only the second full-time female coach in the NFL, said she wanted to be open about her sexual orientation to break down barriers for the LGBT community.
"No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are," the 31-year-old told Outsports.
"There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation.
"The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day."
Sowers, who came out to her family when she was in college, works as an offensive assistant with the 49ers wide receivers corps.
"The most fulfilling aspect is having the ability to impact the lives of these young men chasing their dream of playing in the NFL, as well as serve as a role model for young girls who might happen to see me following my passion," Sowers said.
"I am a strong believer that the more we can expose children to a variety of different opportunities in life, the better chance they have of finding their true calling.
"I would have loved to see women in this role when I was growing up because I think it would have allowed me to follow my passion even earlier. If you can't see something happen, sometimes it's hard to believe it can. We don't know what we don't know, and I didn't know football was even a possibility for women."
Sowers played professional American football in the Women's Football Alliance and helped the United States win the women's world title and gold medal in 2013.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan took the decision to keep Sowers on his coaching staff after being impressed with her work during the off-season.
"Katie did a real good job for us in Atlanta, she's done a really good job here," Shanahan said.
"She's a hard worker, you don't even notice her because she just goes to work and does what's asked. Because of that, she's someone we'd like to keep around."
© 2017 AFP