For the first time in the National Football League’s 95-year history, a woman will don the black and white striped uniform as a full-time game official.
Sarah Thomas said she was “speechless” when Dean Biandino, the NFL Vice-President of Officiating, hired her last week. Although honored to be considered a trail blazer for women, she just wants to blend in with the other six referees on field and never make a mistake.
Plucked as a top candidate from the NFL’s advanced development program for officials, the Brandon, Mississippi native has more than 20 years under her belt. She already broke ground as the first woman ever to officiate in a prestigious college bowl game.
Thomas is not the first female to ever take the field. Shannon Eastin filled in during a 2012 labor dispute between the league and staff officials, but wasn’t officially hired on staff.
“It’s meaningful to a lot of people, and I’m honored for that. But that’s not why I set out to do this, to break a gender barrier of any sort. I just did it because I loved officiating,” she said Thursday on Today. “I’m not nervous, really…I’m just making sure that my fellow crew mates know I’m ready, and that the coaches and players know I’m there to do a job as an official.”
(WATCH the video from the NFL)