The best story from the NFL Sunday was the one that you didn’t hear much about. Sarah Thomas became the SECOND woman to officiate an NFL regular season game and the FIRST to do so as a permanent official when she served on the crew for the Houston – Kansas City game as a line judge. In 2012, Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate an NFL game when she officiated as a part of a temporary crew during the NFL’s negotiations with its permanent officials. Both Eastin and Thomas were a part of the NFL’s official development camp this summer.
Sarah has officiated for the NCAA, including bowl games for years. Sarah and Dr. Jen Welter made a different kind of history when they became the first official-coach duo during the first week of preseason games this summer. https://twitter.com/DeanBlandino/status/632715909854064640
I’m actually glad it wasn’t news. When Dr. Jen Welter (@jwelter47) took the sidelines for a summer internship coaching for the Arizona Cardinals there was quite a bit of conversation on sports radio. Some cheered, others jeered. I was APPALLED at the 1950’s mentality on my local sports radio. They were talking about how the men might feel with a woman in the locker room. Seriously. Because as a society we are modest? Because this woman expects them to act differently when she’s present? Because Dr. Welter didn’t have to deal with this when she was a football player? Because women haven’t been dealing with men in their locker rooms for decades? I was pleased that the discussion was short lived. Dr. Welter apparently did a nice enough job that her former players are still in touch, including tweeting her to say how much they appreciated her.
In an interview with the NFL Network, Thomas stated that she didn’t think of herself as a pioneer. I do say that she, Easton, and Welter are great role models for both girls and boys. They are helping normalized women in men’s professional sports, just like Becky Hammon in the NBA. It’s ironic to me that teams and leagues are moving faster than the media. Erin Andrews paved the way for women to be hosts on major sports shows, and yet this year’s additions to her previous show, ESPN’s College Gameday were all men. Women continue to be relegated to the sideline interviews during games and a very limited number host shows. Perhaps Tracy Wolfson and Andrea Kremer love what they do, but there are others who would like to be in the broadcast booth, and I’m quite certain would do as good of a job (if not better) than their male counterparts. My dream is that one day you will turn on a game and not be surprised to hear women calling the game. With multiple female coaches on the sidelines. And the referee in charge as a woman.
In the meantime, CHEERS to Sarah Thomas! I will look forward to her being on the field all season, and hope that it continues to NOT be news.
Update: I just saw this story. On Sunday the U.S. Open was first woman to umpire a men’s tennis singles final!
Another update: I just watched @Katie_Witham as the new co-host of the ACC Network’s ACC Blitz along side of @Tommy_Bowden. It’s not a major show, and she still has a lot to learn about southern football, but this is promising.