Sarah Thomas: First Female RefereeBy: Lindsay McCane - August 4, 2013
Sarah Thomas, the 39-year-old referee, may become the first female permanent game official in the National Football League, come 2014. The former college basketball player began officiating high school ball games at the age of 23 and says that ‘she never dreamed then that she could become a candidate to officiate NFL games’.
“I didn’t set out to break a glass ceiling or a gender barrier,” said Thomas. “If you’re doing things because you love them, then things have a tendency to just kind of fall into place.”
There are 21 officials in the NFL’s higher-level training pool, including Thomas. When a position becomes available, the league will choose to bump someone up from that group and many are hoping that Thomas will be the one.
“Thomas becoming a permanent official would be a good positive first step that begins to reflect the gender dynamics of the NFL audience,” Aine Duggan, president of the National Council for Research on Women said. “It’s important for women to see themselves reflected on and off the field. Having a woman referee is a good step that begins to do that.”
Thomas doesn’t believe that her gender has put her at a disadvantage within her career. “I don’t feel that it’s been harder for me because I’m a female,” Thomas told ABC News. “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.”