Women make up an estimated 45 percent of the NFL's American fanbase, and for the first time in league history, a woman will be turned from fan to referee. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Sarah Thomas has been hired as the NFL's first full-time female referee.
Hearing the NFL has hired its first female official, Sarah Thomas, a ground-breaking move. Mississippi native was a finalist previously— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) April 3, 2015
Thomas, who began her career officiating high school games, worked in pharmaceutical sales before joining Conference USA's refereeing pool in 2007. In 2009, she became the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game, and has been steadily ascending onto the NFL's radar since. Thomas had been in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program, where she gained experienced working in New Orleans Saints training camp and in preseason games.
While Thomas is the NFL's first full-time female hire, she's not the first woman to call an NFL game. That distinction goes to Shannon Eastin, who worked a Rams-Lions game during the brief Replacement Ref era in 2012. Although she's making a nugget of NFL history, Thomas doesn't see herself as anything more than what she is: Just another full-time NFL referee who'll make an average of over $173,000 per season through her time with the league.
"I set out to do this and get involved in officiating not having any idea that there were not any females officiating football," she told NFL Network. "Being a former basketball player, you saw female officiating all the time, so no I don’t feel like a pioneer."
Let's hope the NFL doesn't have a player go through their own "this might not be for her" moment.
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[via Sports Illustrated]