Finally! A Woman Will Officiate An NFL Game — For The First Time Ever
9:45 am, August 7th | by Amy Tennery
Three huge cheers this morning: A woman will officiate an NFL game for the first time. Sure, it’s a pre-season game — Packers versus Chargers, this Thursday night — but still. A woman will officiate an NFL game.
Shannon Eastin, previously a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, according to ESPN, will serve as a replacement ref amid contract conflicts between the NFL and the regular officiating squad. As some have pointed out, the nature of Eastin’s appointment leaves her wide open to criticism; all the “good” refs, critics say, are locked up in other contracts or are currently fighting with the NFL. One writer over at Yahoo called her appointment a “travesty,” and argued she’s not equipped for the job. For our part, until Thursday at least, we’ll refrain from judgment and celebrate the landmark. A woman will officiate an NFL game.
(Eastin, it should be noted, rocks on a number of levels. She’s a six-time national judo champion, according to ESPN. Raise your hand if you want to be best friends with Shannon Eastin.)
As a number of outlets have pointed out, Eastin’s appointment is groundbreaking not just for the NFL but for women and sports in general — it wasn’t until 1997 that a woman served as an official in any major pro sport. And while female officials have made inroads in other sports, numerous discrimination suits and allegations of harassment have painted an ugly picture.
Two tennis umps filed suit against the U.S. Tennis Association in 2005, alleging retaliation against them for complaining about sexual and racial discrimination. One of the plaintiffs described the working environment as “like going back to the world when women didn’t have the right to vote,” according to an Associated Press story at the time. Going way back, in 1991, umpire Pam Postema filed suit against minor-league baseball, alleging that she was “repeatedly spit on and cursed, sometimes kissed, and finally fired because she was a woman,” according to the Inquirer. And a fantastic series from espnW last year also shows the obstacles women have faced in officiating most major sports, including baseball, soccer and hockey (seriously, it’s worth a read).
But today we celebrate. A woman will officiate an NFL game.