The National Football League made a groundbreaking announcement Wednesday afternoon, stating that the league hired eight full-time referees, and one of them is a woman.
Sarah Thomas was hired by the NFL, and recently broke other barriers in the sport as she became the first female official to work in a major collegiate bowl game. She began officiating at the collegiate level in 2007.
First of all, it seems necessary to applaud the NFL for taking a huge step in the direction of gender equality, especially in a sport that is dominated by men. This is a huge step forward in the battle of gender equality in the world of sports. Of course, the transition from collegiate officiating to NFL officiating is no walk in the park. As many can recall, the NFL replacement referee disaster of 2012 was a result of numerous low level college officials who were thrust into the midst of high level professional football. Of course I’m not saying it’s anything Thomas won’t be able to handle, it’s just good to point out that there are seven other male officials who will likely struggle with the transition in 2015.
Despite the different atmosphere, I would love to see Thomas succeed in the NFL as a full-time referee. I hope that this will eventually lead to other women climbing up the ranks of football officiating and eventually getting hired in to the NFL as well. Maybe this could lead to women getting positions in football beyond refereeing. Sooner than later, we may see the first female on a professional coaching staff in the NFL. Just last year, the NBA saw a similar situation when Becky Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as the first ever female bench coach in the league. Pretty soon, we might see other women taking over professional front offices and being in charge of team operations.
Equality in sports is on the rise, and it is time for it to be accepted. As a casual fan, I honestly couldn’t care less who was in charge of my favorite team’s organization. Whether they’re male and female, as long as they’re getting results I’m completely fine.
My only concern with Thomas coming in to the NFL is the unfair scrutiny that she may receive. If she makes one bad call on the field, many people will bust social media with sexist comments, complaining that she doesn’t deserve her position. Obviously that would be outrageous, but it might as well be expected.
No matter how her first season goes in the league, I believe there is no way she can be a worse NFL referee than Jeff Triplette.