The 2012 NFL referee lockout was a stressful time for football fans and teams all over – especially you Green Bay Packers fans during that Seattle Seahawks game September 24 – but there was some light at the end of the tunnel for a few women out there.
If you were paying close attention last season during the lockout, you may recall a woman making NFL history. Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate an NFL game during a Thursday night preseason matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers.
This was a giant step for both women and for the NFL in the diversity category.
Eastin did make history that night, but also set herself back with some other activities she was involved in prior to making her NFL debut. According to ESPN.com, Eastin was involved in the World Series of Poker Tournament. Even though Eastin passed the background check and was cleared to play, she was criticized by the NFL Referee Association, which said she should not be allowed to officiate an NFL game because of her participation in that event.
If Eastin is hired in the future, she would be banned from participating in any gambling.
Even though the replacement ref era ended after Week 3 of the 2012 season, there could be a more permanent fixture of females in the NFL, according to a recent story from the Associated Press.
Thanks to the walls that Eastin has broken down, Sarah Thomas is the next woman ready to cross those barriers and step into the NFL officiating world.
This is not the first time that Thomas has been a ‘first’ candidate. In 2007, she was the first female to officiate a Division I NCAA football game. The speed of the game from college to NFL is an adjustment that Thomas will have to take on.
According to the Associated Press and NFL.com, Thomas has been on the NFL’s radar for a few years now. “She was in our pipeline for a while, “ said the NFL’s Vice President of officiating, Dean Blandino.
Thomas will be making her debut this preseason in an Indianapolis Colts game (where she has been serving as a line judge during the team’s offseason program), and fans could see her on the field as a permanent referee by the 2014 regular season. However, a current official would have to leave the league or retire to create an opening, reports the AP.
It does not matter whether the official is a man or a woman; they just need to know the rules and be able to make the right calls.
The one worry I have is how Thomas would avoid a collision with some of these rather large players. That said, who is to say that she is not in better shape than some of the officials in the NFL today, all of whom seem to be retired old men?
Thomas seems like a strong woman that is up for the challenge. I am sure we will be hearing a lot more of her name come football season.
How do you Ravens fans feel about a permanent female referee in the NFL?