It was announced last night that the National Football League has finally hired it’s first female official in Sarah Thomas. A former basketball player, Thomas worked her way up through the officiating ranks and was already part of the NFL’s Developmental Program. While she is the first woman to officially be hired by the NFL, she is not the first woman to referee a game.
During the 2012 lockout, when the league hired replacement officials, Shannon Eastin officiated some games as a non union offical. Thomas was already part of the union and chose to stand with it. With her hiring, she becomes the first full time female official in league history.
A Mississippi native, Thomas lettered in softball in high school and went on to play basketball at the University of Mobile. After graduation, she played men’s basketball for a Mississippi church league for two years until one of the local pastors put a stop to it.
She soon learned she missed sports, so in 1996 she joined her brother in a meeting with the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association. She studied up on the rules and soon began officiating games at the local level.
After putting in her dues, she made it to the high school level in 1999. After officiating for several years, in 2006 she decided to take a break and focus on family. However, the powers that be at the college level had already been watching her progress and she was lured by Gerald Austin to Conference USA who hired Thomas in 2007.
In 2009, she became the first woman to officiate a college bowl game. Then, in 2011, she became the first woman to officiate in a Big Ten Stadium. She became part of the NFL’s Developmental Program and the rest as they say is history.
While Thomas will serve full time as an official, most officials have jobs outside the league and she does as well. She is also a pharmaceutical representative and a mother to three children.
To read her full biography just click here.
Congratulations to Sarah Thomas and to the National Football League for finally making this happen.
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