NFL makes publicity push for female official


Sarah Thomas is currently a line judge in college football, but next year she is expected to be working as an official in the NFL. And the NFL knows a good story when it sees one.

So when CNN profiled Thomas on its State of the Union Sunday morning show, it was interesting to hear that the league approached CNN to ask the network to tell the story of Thomas, who is slated to become the first full-time official in NFL history.

“Thomas is being pushed aggressively to the media by the NFL,” CNN’s Candy Crowley said.

(The NFL will surely be glad that CNN didn’t mention last year’s officiating lockout, in which one of the replacement officials was a woman. The replacement refs were a debacle that the NFL would prefer to forget.)

The league’s usual attitude toward officiating is that officials are better seen and not heard. So why does the NFL want publicity for this particular official, including an on-camera interview? Dean Blandino, the league’s head of officiating, said the NFL wants to show that it values diversity.

“With diversity, it’s a core principle of the NFL, so this is right in line with our values,” he said. “Sarah’s worked her way to this point, and it’s a nice byproduct for the NFL that she’s a female. And it’s a great story, absolutely.”

Thomas has been working at the Saints’ training camp, and from all accounts she’s been no different than any other official. CNN included on-camera interviews with Saints players Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore and Roman Harper all agreeing that Thomas does fine work and that players don’t notice the gender of an official.

Oddly, CNN also decided to include a misleading portion of a quote from Drew Brees in which Brees seemed to suggest that coaches would treat Thomas differently than male officials. In reality, Brees made clear that he thinks male and female officials will be treated equally: In response to the first question he got about whether anything was different with Thomas than with other officials, Brees answered, “No, she’s a pro.”

When Brees got his second question on Thomas, about whether he wants to see female officials, he answered, “Sure. I mean they are as qualified as anyone else who is out there.”

Only when Brees got his third question about Thomas, asking if he could foresee anyone possibly treating Thomas differently, did he allow that “maybe” some coaches might not yell at her as much as they’d yell at a male official. But Brees immediately followed that by saying, “we are not going to evaluate officials any differently, whether they are male or female.” (The full transcript of Brees’s comments is here.)

For some reason, out of all that, the only quote CNN used from Brees was the portion in which he said, “I think it would be hard for a coach to yell at a female official, like he would a male official. That is just being honest.” CNN left out Brees saying “maybe” before he said that, and CNN also left out Brees saying male and female officials would not be judged differently.

So the NFL got the publicity it wanted for Sarah Thomas, even if that publicity included one of the league’s top players having his comments taken out of context.

38 responses to “NFL makes publicity push for female official

  1. The news and sports media taking a quote out of context to enhance their view of a story, and maybe create an additional story out of it? Imagine that.

  2. Just make sure this female ref was never a legal poker gambler or else real problems will arise like with the replacement ref.

  3. “(The NFL will surely be glad that CNN didn’t mention last year’s officiating lockout, in which one of the replacement officials was a woman. The replacement refs were a debacle that the NFL would prefer to forget.)”

    I don’t know why that would make a difference if they mentioned that. Almost all of the replacement refs were terrible and only one of them was a woman. I didn’t see her stand out as doing a horrible job in comparison to the men.

  4. It could be a effin tranny for all I care so long as they are the best person for the job. But hiring a female ref for the sake of having a female ref is in it of itself sexist.

  5. As long as she’s a good ref, I don’t see why she should get to much publicity, I doubt she would want too much publicity from distracting her from doing her job well

  6. I don’t care about a ref’s age, race or gender as long as they get the calls right. I do wish, however, that the NFL would stop their current practice of hiring officials who are severely visually impaired.

  7. I’m sure she’ll be able to pull two angry 300 lb guys apart during a scuffle….riiiight.

  8. She should get the job based on officiating credentials only. The fact she has indoor plumbing should NOT be any kind of factor.

    Of course, i do think it is a factor…kinda like all the pink gear in october. A sport watched mainly by men has no kind of mens cancer (prostate cancer?) awareness, but it has breast cancer awareness…its just a ploy to pander to women and sell more NFL licensed apparel.

  9. Hahahahahahahaha … “Oddly, CNN also decided to include a misleading portion of a quote…”

    Not sure how anyone working for this site can type this. Isn’t this what 50% of the articles on here are?

  10. Diversity………..what a load of crap. So much concern about skin color, genitalia, and where a person likes to place said genitalia. As if any of that matters. How about just having the most qualified do the job, whomever that may be, and end the pandering to all the “aggrieved” special interests. The NFL is really turning me off these days with its PC.

  11. I am all for hiring people who are the most qualified and skilled candidates for a position regardless of gender or ethnicity, however I am against Affirmative Action if it means discriminating against a more qualified candidate.

  12. “The replacement refs were a debacle that the NFL would prefer to forget.”

    The regular refs are an ongoing debacle – have been for years – only unlike the replacement refs, they wrongly think that their poo doesn’t generate offensive odors – plus they want a a whole lot more money than the replacements were satisfied with, for their 48 hours of work a year.

    Except for their not having the awesome Mike Carey – and the late Red Cashion (First Downnnnnnnnn!!!”), the replacement refs were basically alright.

  13. By the way, the NFL picked a perfect woman for this role. This Sarah Thomas absolutely will do a great job – she is good. Solid.

  14. I font think its a good idea unless she is a buffed up woman. From time to time refs get wiped out and if she gets wiped out during a play there will probably be a huge story on it and the guy that hits her gets charged. And then there will be a bazillion stories on here saying the same thing and then they’ll ask for Tebows opinion on the subject. Not a good idea.

  15. Kinda cute the way this of all websites notices a trick used by CNN to take a quote out of context to add to the point of story in order to create discussion.

  16. As long as she’s better than the woman kicker the Jets tried out, I STILL feel vicariously embarrassed for her.

  17. That time of the month.
    What that happens, will the NFL track if she throws more flags, and if so does she throw flags for more flagrant penalties? Will her judgement be compromised b/c of her “monthly visitor? There have been court cases where women have been excused of murder b/c of their cycle so it is not a stretch to consider that she might throw more flags b/c of her impaired mental/emotional state of mind.
    What will the NFL do if it finds that she throws more flags 1 Sunday each month? Will it bench her until she is of right mind?

  18. The push for diversity is a horrible thing for our nation.

    People who share the same values, think alike and act alike make up a far more effective team than that d

  19. Ok so now wondering when does the countdown for Goodall to start changing the rules & mindsets for making football “safer” for the women refs to be out on the field begin? Or has it already begun?

  20. Why should it matter? A woman? I didn’t hear Chicken Little screaming that the sky was falling. First, I hope she does a good job and make all the naysayers look like a bunch of idiots. They were probably anyway. Second, if she does a good job, the ones that hated the idea, will later say”I knew she would be good”.

  21. CNN does this with everything instead of reporting the story as is everything they do is an OPP ED piece. Look at Travon Martin it was as if they were trying to entice a race war focusing on outlandish things the black panthers were saying as well as seeking out the most conservative racist bigots they can find. Forget the fact that it was a murder vs. self defense case that’s not a good enough story make it a race war and it’s an even better story. CNN isn’t the only ones almost all media is like this now eerily similarly like the yellow journalism back in the 1800’s.

  22. Why is it a big news story that, decades after women achieved equality with men in numbers attending law school and medical school, the NFL is going to have one female official out of the more than one hundred employed by the league?

    Is this supposed to attract more female fans? Absurd. The NFL must have a very active Vice President of Political Correctness, who knows that the media will grab this story and give it twenty times more coverage than it deserves.

  23. Equality, where you force people to have equal rights. So women will now be going to the front lines, wait, they just want equality when it’s easy to complain about.

  24. I don’t get why this is such a big deal, are we also going to have a news article and media blitz for the first transgender referee? its just like how black head coaches is such a huge topic, but how come their aren’t more asian or spanish head coaches?

  25. I can’t wait for Polian comes out on this one to make a statement. He believes the only pace for a women in football is cleaning a locker room.

  26. Women are irrational therefore can’t have a rational position in as in a nfl referee. Women subconsciously hate men, and men consciously dislike most women, so the penalties will be higher, making the no fun league the the really no fun league and making the game boring. One out of a billion women would want to be a nfl referee and almost every guy out there would love to be a nfl referee.

  27. “There goes the neighborhood!” Are we seriously saying that, out of ALL the other refs, she is the best of the bunch? None of the other refs (all male) are as good if not better than she is? Not saying it is impossible just that the odds are that this is unlikely just because the numbers are against her. Dont know how many refs there are in college, but if there are 100 and she is 1 of 100, odds of simply beating around out 99 others (regardless of gender) aren’t the best. Now add in the fact that she is the only female, well statistics aren’t in her favor. This is NFL PC run amuck. Is there anything that political correctness can’t/ won’t touch?

  28. Is there a reason for not hiring a black female referee? The nba did but the nfl is promoting diversity? Yeah right!!

  29. As a woman and an absolutely rabid football fan, it saddens me to hear the comments about this story. I have seen jokes about a 15 yard penalty for “raping”, football is a man’s game, women should not be around football EVER” “the football field doesn’t look like a kitchen”. Oh and the stupidest and probably the most misogynistic thing I have ever read, “What if she throws a flag because of her period”….Let that last one sink in.

    What the hell is wrong with my fellow football fans? What is wrong with embracing women (fans and refs) alike in this sport? I’ll tell you, most women who are into football know their stuff, MUCH more than a lot of them men I’ve debated with. It’s pathetic to see people so afraid of a woman doing a man’s job. Oh, and don’t give me that nonsense, “what’s gonna happen when she gets tackled on the field?” Honestly, how often do ref’s get tackled? Legitimately tackled? It’s RARE.

    If she gets her period? She’ll do what every other woman does; she’ll suck it up, go out on the field and do her job like a professional.

    This woman has done college ball, she knows her stuff and is probably tougher than a lot of guys out there who would run screaming the other way if a 300 lbs lineman got in their face. She wouldn’t be out there doing this kind of work if she couldn’t handle it.

    Give her a chance. If she sucks, she’ll be no worse than the refs out there every Sunday. Then you’ll have equality.

  30. “Thomas has been working at the Saints’ training camp, and from all accounts she’s been no different than any other official …. In response to the first question he got about whether anything was different with Thomas than with other officials, Brees answered, ‘No, she’s a pro.’”

    So, pray tell where is the diversity?

  31. I still want to know where is all the diversity she is supposed to bring into the game.

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