NFL hires its first woman to officiate games full-time

Wed Apr 8, 2015 4:32pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) on Wednesday said it would hire a woman for the first time to officiate games full-time for the most popular U.S. sport.

Sarah Thomas, 41, will join the NFL as a line judge after officiating in Conference USA, a college league, since 2007, the league said.

"I did not set out to become an NFL official," said Thomas, who has been working in the NFL's Officiating Development Program. "The further I went along in the progression, getting into Conference USA, part of me thought it may become a reality.

"But my goal has always been to be the best line judge I could be."

Shannon Eastin was the NFL's first female official, serving as a line judge for the first three games of the 2012 season. She was hired as a replacement official during the lockout of full-time referees in a labor dispute.

"I do honor the fact that many people consider me a trailblazer," said Thomas, a Mississippi native. "But I've been doing this because I love it. When you're out there officiating, the guys don't think of me as a female.

"They want me to be just like them - just be an official."

The NFL has come under withering criticism by women's groups and others during the past year for lenient punishments handed out by Commissioner Roger Goodell to players involved in domestic violence.   Continued...