NFL gets first female official
NFL gets first female official Developmental line judge Sarah Thomas smiles in the second half of a preseason NFL football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers (AP photos)
NFL gets first female official
Lexile: 880L

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The NFL has its first full-time female game official.

Sarah Thomas, who has worked exhibition games, will be a line judge for the 2015 season, the league announced. The 41-year-old Thomas was in the league's officiating development program in 2013 and 2014. She worked some team minicamps last year.

She's already broken ground in the officiating field. She was the first woman to work college games, in 2007. She was the first female official on the FBS level and the first to officiate a bowl game. That was the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. The FBS is the highest level for college football.

"I am a female, but I don't look at myself as just a female," Thomas said last June while working a Cleveland Browns minicamp. "I look at myself as an official."

Shannon Eastin worked regular-season NFL games in 2012. She was a replacement official, making her the first woman to do so in any capacity. She also was a line judge, which makes many calls, including offsides and the placement of the ball following a play.

Thomas, a former college basketball player, was inspired to become an official in the 1990s. She attended a meeting of officials with her brother, Lea. In 1996, Thomas became the first woman to officiate in a Division 1-A high school football game in Mississippi.

Just under a decade later, she began officiating college games. She was hired by Conference USA, working as a line judge and head linesman. She also has worked the Senior Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, the Medal of Honor Bowl and the Conference USA championship game in 2010 and 2014.

Thomas officiated two seasons in the United Football League, which is now out of business.

Off the field, Thomas is a pharmaceutical representative. She said last June, her two sons and one daughter see nothing extraordinary about her football job.

"They just know mom officiates and it's nothing foreign to them or pioneering or anything," she said. "I do this."

Thomas will be among nine first-year officials in the NFL. The group includes side judge Walt Coleman IV, the son of NFL referee Walt Coleman. The Colemans will become the third active father-son officiating duo, joining Ed and Shawn Hochuli and Steve and Brad Freeman.

The other new officials are line judge Kevin Codey from the American Athletic Conference; head linesmen Hugo Cruz of Conference USA and Bart Longson of the Pac-12; umpire Clay Martin of C-USA; side judges Aaron Santi of the Pac-12 and Jabir Walker of the SEC; and field judge Shawn Smith of the Big Ten.

Critical thinking challenge: Why does Sarah Thomas have more experience at the college level than the professional level?

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Assigned 189 times

  • Alysseh171
    4/14/2015 - 03:04 p.m.

    That is cool it is finally time for the NFL to have a girl referee. I thought that they would do that a long time ago.

  • brandong510
    4/14/2015 - 03:05 p.m.

    I think it is a very good idea to have a female ref because it mite interest more females to support the sport football.and because females should have the same amount of rights as men.

  • Christophern1-Cla
    4/14/2015 - 04:50 p.m.

    this story makes me feel like anything will eventually happen. This story has lots of history of people being the first to do things and alot of history about football. Types of leagues are listed all over the story, NFL SEC PAC 12 BIG TEN FBS UFL.

  • calebbeast111
    4/14/2015 - 05:27 p.m.

    I think its pretty cool how she was the first female official in a lot of sports and now the NFL. I thought I have seen a female official before but I guess not. I hope she dosent think she will be the best official because there has never and there will never be a good official.

  • bailee27
    4/14/2015 - 05:31 p.m.

    Sarah Thomas is the first woman ever to ref in a college game. Sarah is only 41 years old with 3 kids 2 sons and 1 girl. She sounds like an amazing woman. She also has a lot of guts. I look up to woman like this who are not afriad to be different.

  • Haileyd18_3
    4/14/2015 - 07:19 p.m.

    Trust me when I say, I am shocked that in 2015 there is now the first women to be an offical. Sarah Thomas is the first female other things such as to work college games, To be an offical on FBS level, and to officiate a bowl game. One thing that she said that made me a little upset though was, 'I am female, but I don't look at myself as a female, I look at myself as an official.' Becuase, by saying that she is saying that women aren't offical.

  • Eriku2
    4/14/2015 - 07:22 p.m.

    The NFL has just hired a new referee. Not just any official, a women official. This is the first female referee in the NFL. I think this is good for women's rights.

  • Charlie_12
    4/14/2015 - 07:55 p.m.

    I think that this article was very surprising. It was not surprising because a woman official is now in the NFL, but it was surprising that this was the first woman official to ever be in the NFL. This article shows that even though many rights were given to women between the 1900's and now, there are still many rights that men have that women don't.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/14/2015 - 08:13 p.m.

    I think that it is cool for a football league to have the first woman referee because most of the football league has a man as a referee instead of women at the football league referee because I think that women are going to do the wrong thing not like the man referee does. Well if the football league has gotten the first woman referee, I think that she did the right things instead of doing the wrong thing.

    • Steve0620-yyca
      7/28/2015 - 01:06 p.m.


      I think that there shouldn't have been a woman referee. The woman can't really see what's happening and it doesn't matter if she was a referee in other football games. You can't just say that you think that the woman is going to do something wrong but because she is in NFL she will do the right thing. That doesn't make sense.

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