Why Has It Taken So Long For A Woman To Officiate An NFL Game?
You know what I’ve been wondering for a few years now? Why don’t the major professional sports—including Major League Baseball and the National Football League—use female umpires and referees more often?
I know the obvious answer to that question. They don’t do it now because they’ve never done it and it takes years and years and years to break out of habits that have been put into place for so long. But, a couple years ago, the National Basketball Association started using female referees and I thought for sure that other sports would follow suit. After all, the NBA is the only pro sport that lets guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James regularly converse with their referees during timeouts and free throws. So, you’d think that it’d be the last sport to allow females to serve as referees, seeing as how league officials might feel as though they’d be intimidated more easily than their male counterparts. It’s worked out, though, and female refs have drawn more and more assignments.
In the NFL, female referees haven’t even been a thought, though. Not until now. On Thursday night, Shannon Eastin—a referee who has worked games in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference—will work a preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Diego Chargers. She hasn’t commented publicly on the assignment yet, but she’ll be part of a crew of replacement referees who are being used because the regular NFL referees are holding out for new contracts right now. And, in working the game, she’ll be the first woman to ever work an NFL game. It’ll be history in the making.
Will this lead to more female referees working NFL games? Unfortunately, probably not. It takes years to work your way up to becoming a regular NFL referee and there are still many women fighting hard to break into the high school and college ranks, let alone the pros. But, hopefully, Eastin’s performance on Thursday night will prove that women do deserve a chance to serve as NFL referees in the future. Further, they also deserve a chance to serve as MLB umpires and NBA refs, too.
They’re more than capable of doing it. All they need is a chance—and for all of the league officials out there to think outside the box when it comes to hiring new referees. Otherwise, it could be a long time before another woman does what Eastin is set to do. And, we really hope that isn’t the case.