Woman Referee Breaks Gender Barrier
May 6, 2015
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The rookie players that are drafted in this year’s National Football League draft aren’t the only unfamiliar faces fans will see in the 2015-2016 football season.
On April 8, 2015, the NFL hired new referee Sarah Thomas, who happens to be the first full-time female referee in league history. The groundbreaking news was the talk of the media Friday as the 19 year veteran referee was promoted to a full-time line judge for the league.
Thomas, whose resume is just as good as any male referee includes experience in pee-wee, high school, junior college, collegiate, and now professional games. She holds the title of first female to referee in a Big 10 stadium, first female to officiate in a college bowl game, and now first female to referee in the NFL full-time.
The NFL’s vice president of officiating Dean Blandino issued a statement Thursday saying, “Our incoming officials have all demonstrated that they are among the best in college football. We are excited about having them join us,” as reported by NFL.com.
When asked about the challenges she faced getting to the NFL, she said, “I don’t feel that it’s been harder for me because I’m a female.”
In an interview with ABC, Thomas, who was still officiating at the college level at the time, said, “I think that we are just out here working as officials… I think just on our credentials, just as officials, I think that’s what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race.”
Junior Ansley Emerson said, ‘I think it’s a big leap forward for the NFL, and a good leap at that. It’s refreshing to see a female make a difference in a male dominated sport.”
This full-time employment of a female official isn’t much of a surprise though. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has started a complete renovation of the leagues image after receiving immense criticism and even being asked to step down by many in the 2014-2015 season after it was plagued with multiple sexual assault charges and domestic violence cases, all which were poorly handled by the NFL.
Goodell and the NFL Players Association have both worked together to launch the “No More” campaign: a movement advocating for the end of domestic violence and sexual assault. No More also released a series of emotional commercials featuring players and celebrities crying out against domestic violence.
For many, this is a step in the right direction for the league. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see positive change like this for years to come.