This Thursday, due to the officials being locked out due to a contract dispute, replacement official Shannon Eastin will make history as the first female referee in the NFL. Though it’s just a preseason game, this is seen as a big step and players and teams seem to be embracing the idea. Both the Chargers and Packers have thrown their support towards Eastin and in particular, Charles Woodson seems to be extremely supportive of the woman who some are calling a pioneer.
During an interview with Sirius NFL radio, Woodson praised both Eastin and the NFL for making it happen, stating:
“What do I think about it? Well, it’s probably about time. I’m sure women have probably tried at some point, along the way, leading up to this point. I would assume there’s somebody qualified out there, that we won’t have to jump all over for making bad calls. We look forward to it. That’s just the way things are and the way they should be. Hats off to her and whoever decided to make it happen.”
He added that in the flow of the game, he doubts that anyone will notice one referee… unless they make a bad call. “She’s got to get it like everybody else,” he laughed.
Eastin has remarked that other players have been extremely supportive of her, saying that during a day she spent at Arizona Cardinals camp that Larry Fitzgerald was extremely supportive and very kind to her.
Eastin has 17 years of officiating experience, four years as a football referee in the MEAC and has worked Division I basketball in the WAC and Sun Belt conferences.
“I want to encourage women, don’t be afraid to have dreams. This is an example that dreams really can come true.”
In a mostly male dominated profession and league, it’s inspiring to see someone break through that ceiling.
Whether or not she’ll be around to stay is yet to be seen. For now, she’s a “scab”. A replacement referee until the contract dispute is solved. Whether or not she’s opening the door for other women finding employment in the league will be something to keep an eye on in the coming years.