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Sarah Thomas Earns Her Stripes as the NFL’s First Female Referee

Topics: Current Events

There’s a new face calling the shots for the National Football League and her name is Sarah Thomas – oh, and she just so happens to be the first female full-time referee in the history of the NFL. Read on to learn more about how Thomas began her professional journey and what fans think of her new, history-making promotion.


(Photo Credit: PDA.PHOTO/Flickr)

Thomas’ sports career started earlier in high school, where she lettered five times in softball, then continued as she went on to play college basketball at the University of Mobile on a scholarship. In her off-season time, the New York Post reports that Thomas is also a pharmaceutical sales representative in Jackson, Mississippi, where she lives with her husband, their daughter, and their two sons. Not only is Thomas a pioneer for her career accomplishment as the first permanent female NFL official, but this woman also might be Superwoman. No joke.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Unfortunately, not everyone feels like Thomas is a good fit for her newly appointed title, namely Cleveland morning show radio host, Kevin Kiley. In a rant last week on his morning show, Kiley spewed his sincere opinions about having a female official in the NFL, and he indicated that that the NFL is “strictly a man’s world” and that being an NFL referee “calls for a lot of man traits.” It’s “the wrong place to put a woman,” Kiley claims, because “it’s unfair to the woman.”

What’s unfair is Kiley’s complete disregard for the years Thomas has put into her career to get where she is today, even officiating significant high-school games while “visibly pregnant with two of her three kids,” as he mansplains, “I don’t want women I care about in that position. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why you’d put a woman in that position, where she’s going to be criticized and under a microscope, and have to deal with things that no woman should have to deal with.” Yes, we see what you’re getting at – but really, Kiley, what year is it?!

Commenters on Deadspin can’t help but point out Kiley’s less-than-terrific response to Thomas’ appointment. Commenter Billy Clyde Puckett says, “Here’s what Kevin Kiley doesn’t bother to find out: Sarah Thomas is really good.” He goes on to say, “They didn’t pluck her away from doing jayvee games in Indiana last December. I’m sure she’s heard it from players and coaches already (she already worked NFL games during the officials’ lockout a couple years ago, if memory serves, and worked in the UFL and in college), as all wing officials have, forever.”

The bottom line is, Thomas deserves this position because she has earned her stripes, gender aside. Thankfully, more and more women like Thomas are beating the odds and making history as pioneers in their fields and blazing paths for more tenacious women to follow in their footsteps.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your thoughts about having a woman referee in the NFL? Join the conversation happening on Twitter.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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Kevin Keltner
Kevin Keltner

I believe Kevin Kiley’s comments to be unfair, and Kevin Kiley probably does as well. I do not believe Kevin Kiley was after ‘what is right’ but rather, ‘what gets me ratings’. This article, as well as the Deadspin article, prove my point. Simply put, female referees can be just as good, or better, than any male referee. What gender you are plays no part in refereeing a football game. Any female can make a better, or for that matter,… Read more »


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