NFL’s First Permanent Female Official Eyeing 2014 Debut

Published On June 17, 2013 | By Francesca Pelletier

Sarah Thomas, a mother-of-two from Mississippi, drove all the way to Indianapolis for Colts mini-camp, but she wasn’t spending her three days there cheering on Andrew Luck and his team. Instead, Thomas was there to participate in the NFL’s officiating development program in her efforts to become the first permanent female official in the NFL.

Once she completes the development program, Thomas could pursue her career on the field as soon as a current official retires or leaves and a spot becomes available. The pharmaceutical saleswoman by day already made history back in 2007 when she became the first female ever to officiate an NCAA football game.

Thomas has been on the NFL’s officiating radar since her NCAA refereeing career. Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating told the Associated Press that Thomas is in the league’s “pipeline.” According to Blandino, Thomas could rise to the NFL ranks by 2014.

“It’s just something that happened,” Blandino told the Associated Press regarding Thomas’ role. “She was in our pipeline for awhile.”

The NFL has had a female referee before, as Shannon Eastin became the first female official in both an NFL preseason game and an NFL regular season game when she served as a replacement referee during the NFL referee lockout, but Thomas would be a more permanent member of the NFL officiating crew.

Thomas’ decision to pursue her career in the NFL will hopefully encourage more females to become involved and diversify the entire league with women affecting the makeup of NFL officiating rather than just the kind of makeup on her face.

“It’s always a positive when there’s diversity,” Mr. Blandino said.


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