We kinda want to yell at the NFL, “It’s about time!” but we’re going to take the high road and NOT do that...instead we're going to give a quiet clap and say, "Well done NFL, well done." Here’s what's got us buzzing: The NFL has appointed its first full time female referee, Sarah Thomas. It probably goes without saying but we love ourselves a good trailblazer and Sarah, whether she likes it or not, is a trailblazer.
The timing of Sarah’s promotion has many people wondering: Is this is a goodwill gesture meant to polish up the NFL’s image that, as of late, has not been very female friendly? Maybe, but it doesn't really matter. What we've seen and heard thus far is that Ms. Thomas is more than qualified for the job.
Her background in academics and athletics is impressive.This native Mississippian lettered five times in softball in High School. She attended the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship where she was an academic all-American. In 1996, she attended a meeting for the Gulf Coast Officials Association and worked her way up from High School Varsity Games to Conference USA. From there she moved on to become the first female to officiate in a Big Ten Stadium. She rose through the ranks to officiate Bowl games and NFL scrimmage games as well as taking part in the NFL officiating program.
(Image: Baltimore Sun)
Sarah has worked hard to be a solid and respected official of the sport and she caught the eye of her colleagues not because she wears mascara or flashes her charismatic smile but because of her abilities to make the right calls on the field.
In an interview with Audie Cornish on NPR, commentator Rick Cleveland talks about when Sarah Thomas was pointed out to him. Cleveland reminisces “A really, really good friend of mine who passed away in December was Jack Vaughn, who was a longtime NFL official. And after retiring from the NFL, he went to work for Conference USA as a replay official and an evaluator of on-field officials. And Jack told me years ago in a press box at game - he pointed her out and said, watch this official; she's going to be the first female official in the NFL. She's really good. And it turns out, Jack was right.”
Sarah told ABC News in 2013: "I don't feel that it's been harder for me because I'm a female," she said. "I think that we are just out here working as officials. … I think just on our credentials, just as officials, I think that's what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race."
Sarah has the support of her own Mississippi hometown team and Football Bettys as well as countless other football fans. We look forward to recognizing her on the field for her calls and not her gender.