August 2, 2013

Is the NFL on the Verge of History?

By - Keith Smith

In a few weeks, the NFL has the opportunity to make history. They'll be selecting the people who will officiate games this year, and there is a better-than-average chance that they could select the first woman to officiate in the male-dominated world of professional football.

Sarah Thomas, who has been officiating Conference USA football games since 2007, is working out at the New Orleans Saints' facility during training camp, and the National Football League is taking a very serious look at making her a permanent zebra at the pro level.

Photo by: Getty Images
The gender barrier in officiating was already broken back in 2006, when Violet Palmer crossed over from the WNBA to the NBA and became the first woman to call games in one of the major U.S. men's sports. Women have been officiating men's tennis internationally for years, but sitting in an overgrown high-chair and calling out the score of a tennis match, while challenging, doesn't take much physical conditioning.

This isn't the first time that Thomas has trained at the camp, and head coach Sean Payton has been impressed. He's been quoted as saying she "does a great job." Her marks in Conference USA make her one of the very best officials in that league, and if you ask me, this is something that is long overdue.

As someone who officiates college and high school softball as well as high school basketball, I work with some excellent female officials. I've supported the idea of females working in Major League Baseball for some time, and I think the time is right for the NFL to join the NBA in crossing the gender barrier.

I think it's safe to say that officiating is the only way any professional league will be able to incorporate women into their games. At the most elite level, women can't physically compete with men in the same sport. That isn't a sexist comment, it's simply a genetic fact.

However, when it comes to analyzing a play, deciphering the action, applying and interpreting the rules, and doing it in a fraction of a second, there are many women who do it and do it well. Everyone knows women are better at multi-tasking anyway, and there isn't another profession where multi-tasking is necessary more than sports officiating.

This has been a touchy subject for years, as many fans believe it's necessary for an official to have a history of playing the sport they are working. As an official, I will tell you that it helps when you can anticipate what the players are going to do, but you can still be a good official without any playing experience in the sport you are officiating. I know a lot of males that played sports, but never played the one that they are working, yet are still very effective.

So here's hoping the NFL, and eventually MLB and the NHL, joins the NBA in welcoming female officials. It's been a long time coming.


  1. Women need to stay out of our sport. Sorry, but this sport is based on tradition and the last thing we as men have left that we can call our own. Stay away from it.

  2. Very cool. Best of luck, she can't be any worse that some of the 90 year old geezers they trot out there.

  3. good still leaves it open for me to be the first female head coach lol

  4. Damn women gotta try and take everything from us. lol