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Female official Sarah Thomas getting closer to the NFL


Longtime college football official Sarah Thomas is working toward becoming the first female to serve on an NFL officiating crew.

Thomas, who has officiated Conference-USA games for the last eight seasons, worked at the Colts’ minicamp this week in the NFL’s officiating development program, and she’ll be back in Indianapolis next month to work the Colts’ training camp. League officials told the Associated Press that Thomas is the first woman to officiate on an NFL practice field through the program, and she may call some preseason games this year. If she performs well, she could be hired as a regular official in 2014.

Thomas would actually not be the first female NFL official. That would be Shannon Eastin, who became the first woman to officiate in an NFL game when the league hired replacements during last year’s lockout of the regular officials. But while Eastin herself wasn’t to blame for any prominent botched calls, the officials’ lockout was generally viewed as a mess, replacements made significant mistakes in big games, and no one wanted to celebrate much of anything about the whole replacement official fiasco.

If Thomas earns an NFL job through the ordinary channels, that would be something to celebrate. But Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, is making clear that the NFL will hire Thomas only if she’s the best person for the job, not to make a statement. The NFL has been evaluating Thomas as a potential official for a few years now.

For her part, Thomas said the biggest difference between working Conference-USA games and working NFL practices is that the players are faster.

“The speed, yes, is there,” Thomas said. “These are just phenomenal athletes on both sides of the ball. The game has a tendency to slow down the most snaps you get and repetition. So, hopefully, the more snaps I get, things will start slowing down a little bit.”

Blandino said that’s similar to the adjustment a player has to make when going from college to the NFL. It’s a major adjustment, but one that Thomas appears to be ready to make.

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77 Responses to “Female official Sarah Thomas getting closer to the NFL”
  1. gloryfromheaven says: Jun 14, 2013 6:53 PM

    Pretty soon, there’ll be female NFL players to ; )

  2. giantsfanlewis says: Jun 14, 2013 6:56 PM

    Sadly with the union refs back this will be the closest we will be observing he refs this year

  3. jakec4 says: Jun 14, 2013 6:57 PM

    Fresh officials of any gender will be much more appreciated than some of these blind geezers that they use now.

  4. recyclecode6 says: Jun 14, 2013 6:57 PM

    Good for her. Just hope she is really good because a bunch of sexist jacka$$ will be looking to trash a woman in a man’s game.

  5. oldirtyman says: Jun 14, 2013 6:57 PM

    Think I just found the best women in the world. Best of luck to her

  6. classyjacklambert says: Jun 14, 2013 6:59 PM

    “no one wanted to celebrate much of anything about the whole replacement official fiasco.”

    I don’t remember a whole lot of celebrating about the regular official fiascos either.

  7. shoebert says: Jun 14, 2013 7:02 PM

    I’m curious how players would treat a female official. Perhaps I’m just looking at the potential problems, but I can see some serious issues arising with players making lewd comments to a female referee. Either way, good for her to be good at her job to legitimately earn the opportunity.

  8. fspence87 says: Jun 14, 2013 7:03 PM

    This one seems pretty obvious: if she deserves to be a ref and she’s left out, that’s sexist. If she doesn’t and she’s let in, that’s sexist too. Let the best people ref. After the GB/Seattle debacle last year, God knows the NFL needs the best they can get.

  9. rhcpvikings says: Jun 14, 2013 7:04 PM

    The replacement refs were just as good as the regular refs if not better. The regular refs are biased and have too much of an ego. If you look back over the years there were bad calls by the regular refs that affected the outcome of games just like the packers-seahawks game.

  10. sportsmeccabi says: Jun 14, 2013 7:06 PM

    Blaming the officials for the first few weeks of the year was just a convenient excuse for teams that started the year poorly. The normal officials make just as many mistakes.

  11. zaggs says: Jun 14, 2013 7:06 PM

    “replacements made significant mistakes in big games,”

    As the the supposedly good “regular” refs. I really never noticed the difference.

  12. silentfreedom5 says: Jun 14, 2013 7:12 PM

    Will she be allowed to carry a purse into the stadium?

  13. robertgriffintheturd says: Jun 14, 2013 7:17 PM

    Isn’t the rule for NFL refs that they must have played football in college or professionally?

  14. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 14, 2013 7:18 PM

    When she does she’ll get to meet Christine Michael.

  15. atwatercrushesokoye says: Jun 14, 2013 7:19 PM

    After watching the horrible officiating in the playoffs particularly the Broncos v Ravens (it’s the one I watched closest obviously) I was remembering back to the fonder times with replacement refs. At least with replacement refs you went in with an expectation they would screw some things up, with the regular refs you expected better but got just about the same level of competency.

  16. GenXJay says: Jun 14, 2013 7:29 PM

    Women are good at judging.
    i.e. Judge Judy, the chick after Judge Wapner on The Peoples Court, Heidi Klum on ‘merica’s got talent.
    But as a ref, i worry the penalty explanations will make the game longer.

  17. buckybadger says: Jun 14, 2013 7:31 PM

    robertgriffintheturd says:
    Jun 14, 2013 7:17 PM
    Isn’t the rule for NFL refs that they must have played football in college or professionally?


    Of course not. They aren’t being hired to play, they are being hired to referee. You work your way up through that. Some did play but not all.

  18. chi01town says: Jun 14, 2013 7:31 PM

    I wish her all the best. but she should be careful because refs get hurt out there too.

  19. bamboozle99 says: Jun 14, 2013 7:35 PM

    Hopefully she’s got more substance than that female kicker in the tryouts last off-season.

  20. cmoney20 says: Jun 14, 2013 7:39 PM

    Go ref women playing football, c’mon!

  21. thesteelers says: Jun 14, 2013 7:42 PM

    Boo!! Stay in the kitchen! Six rings weren’t earned with dames on the field.

  22. allseeingone says: Jun 14, 2013 7:44 PM

    Any bets that Frank Gore will ask her out?

  23. kremis says: Jun 14, 2013 7:46 PM

    I guess the call on the coin flip could be considered for a sexual harassment charge against the captain of the visiting team. head or tail.

  24. mike5011ad says: Jun 14, 2013 7:46 PM

    The NBA has had multiple female referees, and there hasn’t been any issue in regards to there gender on the court. Being a referee is just like being a court room judge in funny pants and a striped shirt. As long as she can physically run around, there isn’t any issue.

  25. chrisvegas says: Jun 14, 2013 7:49 PM

    Oh give the world a break. Enough with the females already. Let her officiate female sports. I don’t want women announcers and women sideline reporters and talk show host are bad enough already. I’m tired of this political correct garbage. If she wants to officiate let her officiate a woman’s league. All a woman is going to do is try and prove she can officiate with men and even if she can who really wants to see her? It is a joke. We don’t want women in our sports unless they are cheerleaders.

  26. skb2121 says: Jun 14, 2013 7:54 PM

    Hadn’t heard about this. If she’s qualified, she should have that opportunity. If not, she shouldn’t. We need more decent refs.

    And it’s always funny, ppl who use stories like this to bring out (via anonymous comments) old chestnuts about purses and women being so good in the kitchen. We get it. You’re consumed with resentment and frustration. One day hopefully, everything will fall into place for you, and you’ll lose that virginity. Godspeed.

  27. richardyager says: Jun 14, 2013 7:59 PM

    Wonder how much grab butt butt there will bee when breaking up a pile on huh. I mean it gets pretty tough in there at times. and most of those regular refs are in pretty good shape even for their age, without much protection. She gets tagged once once and all the refs will be wearing full battle gear, bet that will slow them down and their thought process, see where the game goes from there. Refs needs as much agility to move around as possible, restrictive protective gear will only get them hurt, it’s already been looked into.

  28. packerswin96 says: Jun 14, 2013 8:04 PM

    If she is qualified it is a great thing, if it is a publicity thing then not so much!

  29. crowgora says: Jun 14, 2013 8:05 PM

    So what happens the first time someone comes and gets tackled into her?

  30. raynman49 says: Jun 14, 2013 8:28 PM

    When is the first sexual harassment suit?

  31. jayniner says: Jun 14, 2013 8:31 PM

    To ensure no cheating, she promises to thoroughly inspect the players “equipment” before and after games…..

  32. discosucs2005 says: Jun 14, 2013 8:32 PM

    I’m going to be in the extreme minority but I hope the NFL adds her whether she’s ready or not. The endless circle jerk of assuming every “first” only there because someone wanted them to be the “first” and not cause their qualified is a huge part of what keeps the “first” of something from happening.

    Just do it, and once the “first” is out of the way, it will eventually cease to be a big deal and no one will care and there will be more and more.

  33. taintedsaints2009 says: Jun 14, 2013 8:33 PM

    I’m sure Obama will call her to tell her how much she is helping to combat the WAR ON WOMEN.

  34. seanb20124 says: Jun 14, 2013 8:41 PM

    Is she being promoted as part of a social experiment.

  35. ausernamethatisavailable says: Jun 14, 2013 8:44 PM

    Is she baking cookies for the real officials?

  36. westcoastraider says: Jun 14, 2013 8:59 PM

    I’m all for breaking barriers and all, more power to her for reaching for the sky and what not, but in that same respect there better not be that double standard cause she’s a woman… Same rules and guidelines for her as everyone else

  37. pooflingingmonkey says: Jun 14, 2013 9:08 PM

    @raynman49 says: Jun 14, 2013 8:28 PM

    “When is the first sexual harassment suit?”

    After her first game in Pittsburgh would be my guess.

  38. rtk23 says: Jun 14, 2013 9:12 PM

    She has a big butt

  39. msclemons67 says: Jun 14, 2013 9:32 PM

    As long as she can tell the difference between a touchdown and an interception she’ll be okay in my book.

  40. PriorKnowledge says: Jun 14, 2013 9:37 PM

    WOW. Amazing how much comes out from this simple article. I can’t see how much more she can be hurt when hit than some of those 70-year-old men they have running around out there now. I like women. Those of you that don’t like women, …., well… you know what we call you.

  41. orivar says: Jun 14, 2013 9:43 PM

    Countdown to sexism complaints.

  42. silentfreedom5 says: Jun 14, 2013 9:47 PM

    for everyone voting down my comment, I hope you realize its making fun of the NFL’s new rule banning purses and almost all other bags unless they are very small and see through.

  43. nyyjetsknicks says: Jun 14, 2013 9:49 PM

    taintedsaints2009 says:
    Jun 14, 2013 8:33 PM
    I’m sure Obama will call her to tell her how much she is helping to combat the WAR ON WOMEN.


    She’s doing something other woman haven’t. Does the president making a 5 minute phone call bother you that much?

  44. opinion157983 says: Jun 14, 2013 9:59 PM

    The world is slowly evolving and I for one love every minute of it!

    On a side note, I feel sorry for the women in the lives of the many misogynists in these comments…of course maybe they don’t have women in their lives and that’s why they hate.

  45. blackqbwhiterb says: Jun 14, 2013 10:27 PM

    And if a male player or coach argues with her, the media will hate all over them… Watch when some irate coach goes out & starts screaming in her face…. Does she eject him, cry, what? How bout a player going Orlando Brown style if she throws the flag and hits them? If Tom Brady bats his eyes at her she’ll throw flags at every pass rusher all day…. Please can we just not bother??? It’s so tiring watching them try to prove they can do men things….

  46. jayquintana says: Jun 14, 2013 11:02 PM

    I have no doubt she’ll do just as bad as the male referees.

  47. seaeagle707 says: Jun 14, 2013 11:08 PM

    Pete: “Okay Marshawn, you know what to do out there. But the absolute, number one thing you will NOT DO is butt her with the crown of your helmet!!!! Ya got that?”

  48. tincansailor981 says: Jun 14, 2013 11:28 PM

    She certainly can’t suck any more than many of the current crop of refs. Uh oh, did I say something bad?

  49. 8man says: Jun 14, 2013 11:43 PM

    Don’t let her get close to Joe Namath.

  50. footballfanatic666 says: Jun 14, 2013 11:47 PM

    It’s a great day for day for sexism… is she a lesbian??? Then she could cover 2 bases!!!!

  51. buckybadger says: Jun 14, 2013 11:52 PM

    @blackqbwhiterb, she will handle the situations like a professional. That is what is required. Nothing you mentioned isn’t anything a woman can’t handle. Stop being so afraid of someone that is not the “norm” succeed. Its only a big deal because of people like you who make up excuses on why someone can’t do something.

    Also there are woman NBA referees and there has been no problems.

  52. razzzmajazzz says: Jun 15, 2013 12:14 AM

    gloryfromheaven says: Jun 14, 2013 6:53 PM

    Pretty soon, there’ll be female NFL players to ; )
    Blaine Gabbert is the first female NFL player.

  53. vertskate900 says: Jun 15, 2013 12:14 AM

    nyyjetsknicks says: Jun 14, 2013 9:49 PM

    taintedsaints2009 says: Jun 14, 2013 8:33 PM I’m sure Obama will call her to tell her how much she is helping to combat the WAR ON WOMEN.


    “She’s doing something other woman haven’t. Does the president making a 5 minute phone call bother you that much?”

    With the sheet storm of scandals brewing and the president spending his time campaigning for 2014 candidates instead of dealing with any of that, yeah, it bothers me.

  54. osiris33 says: Jun 15, 2013 12:18 AM

    Don’t worry, if she’s not qualified the NFL will lower the standards so is.

  55. montrealraider says: Jun 15, 2013 12:26 AM

    I wish her to succeed. I think its about time and it would be good for the game to show a little bit more inclusiveness towards woman. Im rooting for you Sarah! 🙂

  56. outlawshark says: Jun 15, 2013 12:53 AM

    allseeingone says: Jun 14, 2013 7:44 PM
    Any bets that Frank Gore will ask her out?

    What if Joe Namath tries to kiss her?

  57. outlawshark says: Jun 15, 2013 12:57 AM

    Seriously, tho, I think she should at least officiate some Bowl games to prepare for the NFL, not just Conference-USA.

  58. hedleykow says: Jun 15, 2013 1:56 AM

    Presently, touching a referee is a 15 yard penalty. I’d be willing to take 15 yarders all day if that picture isn’t photoshopped.

  59. randomcommenter says: Jun 15, 2013 2:57 AM

    Does the NFL usually take refs from Conference USA? I thought they took they from big conferences because they worked high pressure games in front of huge crowds.

    If this woman has followed the same path as other NFL refs and she’s qualified then fine.

    But if they are letting her skip steps and hire her in front of guys who are better qualified just so they can have the good PR of having a woman ref then this is crap.

  60. busterhighmann says: Jun 15, 2013 5:14 AM

    Who cares what gender she is? Her job is to make the right calls. If she’s good then get her on the field and treat her with professionalism. That being said, I hope she’s hot.

  61. redbirdsrising says: Jun 15, 2013 5:41 AM

    The day true sexism/racism ends is the day we stop reporting when the “First X gender does this” or the “First X Race” does that.

    Kudos to a woman making it to an NFL crew, but honestly I hope they promote her because she is skilled at the job, not because she is a woman. Equal treatment is equal treatment and the sooner we attach attention to a person’s gender/race/orientation, the more we promote separation despite our good intentions.

  62. JSpicoli says: Jun 15, 2013 6:06 AM

    Iron my shirt.

  63. j4man1 says: Jun 15, 2013 7:01 AM

    So if Eastin already did it why is this a story?

  64. foosball11 says: Jun 15, 2013 7:38 AM

    Just another reason for me to lose interest in the NFL.

  65. musicman495 says: Jun 15, 2013 8:07 AM

    Just watched some YouTube features on her. I am already impressed by how professionally she carries herself and dresses (hair, etc.), to blend in and not draw attention. By the time she makes it to the NFL, I am sure she will be ready.

    Cannot believe some of these comments in 2013. We who are more evolved hereby give the others permission to retreat to your man caves and pout.

  66. istateyourname says: Jun 15, 2013 8:29 AM

    Knock, knock.
    Who’s there?
    Sarah who?
    Sarah referee in the house?

  67. lagg1 says: Jun 15, 2013 9:42 AM

    I do not care what the sex of NFL officials is. As long as she is competent regarding the rules, can keep up the pace and make good calls, let her go and officiate. I hate to say this but as soon as she makes a number of bad call, she may be gone. Whoever is appointed better keep that in mind.

  68. nananatman says: Jun 15, 2013 9:44 AM

    She’ll ruin it, that is what they do.

  69. vikescry1 says: Jun 15, 2013 10:07 AM

    i say give her a chance if she is good, i think they should punish ref’s for poor calls. if you have some young energetic ref’s out there they might be able to keep up with the game more.

  70. vikescry1 says: Jun 15, 2013 10:07 AM

    i love a women in a uniform.

  71. clssylssy says: Jun 15, 2013 10:23 AM

    And as football as we know fades in to the distance…
    What next? It seems like Goodell will not stop with the “Wussification” of the NFL and is more concerned with getting female support for ticket sales than he is in protecting the integrity of the game and football as we have known it. This is taking the equal rights thing too far! It makes me sick to see these dumb bimbos “anchoring” on ESPN and major networks as tokens when they have NOTHING significant or insightful to say; they are merely window dressing and eye candy with their clothes on. Most women fans detest this and consider it insulting to women. Let these officials stick to women’s sports…women’s basketball, women’s tennis, women’s gymnastics, women’s figure skating but, Hands Off Football (both NCAA and NFL)!

  72. miamimike1 says: Jun 15, 2013 10:39 AM

    Let her ref a few of the bigger bowl games first first then preseason in the nfl .

  73. thraiderskin says: Jun 15, 2013 10:47 AM

    Good luck to her, but I’m going to guess she goes female cop pretty quick.

  74. soumiss says: Jun 15, 2013 11:50 AM

    I have attended many games that she has officiated and I will tell you that she is an excellent official. She is not intimidated by the players and she make forceful calls. Sarah would be breath of fresh air compared to the officials we have now.

  75. harrisonhits2 says: Jun 15, 2013 12:40 PM

    The jackasses are out in force commenting on this one.

    It does make it easy to tell who the guys who live in Mom’s basement and have never had a date with a woman are though.

  76. burrito12 says: Apr 3, 2015 10:29 AM

    But when will we have the first minority Muslim female openly gay ref for the media to obsess about? Waaay overdue!

  77. twinfan24 says: Apr 3, 2015 5:02 PM

    She has as much right to be a crappy official as any of the men now doing the job.

    A little more seriously, good luck to her, especially if they hold true and promote her to the pros because she is the best candidate and not just to make a point.

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