Shannon Eastin: The NFL’s First Female Referee

I must admit I’m not a huge sports follower unless I know someone playing or it is sharpshooting.  I know the basic rules of most sports but the deeper nuances escape me.  Nevertheless I found myself being intrigued while watching the news on Wednesday.  The story was about Shannon Eastin, the first female to referee an NFL game.  Call me naive but I had no idea that there were no female referees on the professional level.

In researching a little more about what was going on I learned that not only were there no female officials but she was only there as a replacement while regular officials are locked out.  Some are saying that this is a great step forward for football and for women.  Seriously, how much pressure is that?  All of the sudden this woman is in a situation where she is representing all women, not just herself.  If she makes a bad call people won’t just be saying “Shannon is a bad ref,” they’ll be saying, “women are bad refs.”

“The pressure?” she said. “I think knowing I am a female in a man’s world, I always put more pressure on myself. I know what I signed up for, and that what I do is magnified.”

While the story itself is interesting, it is even more interesting to dig into the comments sections of the stories.  Some people are all for it and there is a lot of support for her.  On the other hand, you have people who are extremely disappointed and upset that she has been given this opportunity.  Some even feel violated.  Let me share some of my favorites:

This guy cracks me up because somehow he doesn’t think he’s being sexist:

“I don’t think a woman should be on the field at all.

There are just some things that are a man’s domain, and I’m not talking about the work environment… I’m talking about football. Not lingerie football, and not some all-female bush league, I’m talking about Professional Football, the NFL.

These men are at the pinnacle of the sports world. They all fought hard to get where they are, from Pop Warner and High School, through College and the Draft; through training camp and the final cut-down… These men are warriors in a very fast, brutally violent and unforgiving sport, sacrificing all to win that Lombardi trophy in a game where nobody remembers second place finishers. This is serious business and I can’t imagine a guy like Clay Matthews getting called for defensive holding by a woman with yellow flag that lacks the credibility to throw it…

I’m not saying that all male officials share the experience either, but I am suggesting that they understand the players, and the players, them… Because they’re all men. I also think that all officials in the NFL have had some playing time themselves, on some level…

No, I’m not a sexist. I’m a purist. And I don’t like what Goodell is doing to the game.”

This one is interesting to me because he somehow feels emasculated:

“A woman ref in basketball is understandable..because woman play basketball…A woman ref in soccer is understandable…because woman play soccer…But a woman ref in football? I don’t get it… Woman have no place in football other than cheerleading and giving birth to their athletic sons. Woman have not earned the right to step on the turf with grid-iron greats. The SAME way many men should not be out there as well. I believe any and all ref’s need to have playing experience. With this experience a thick skin can be developed  to understand the ebb and flow of a game. Of course we are all humans and can understand rules and techniques but woman don’t understand the pure emotion of the game. When you chase someone down or burst open down field with the ball in hand there is no other rush like it. No woman has experienced that. Not only do woman have no experience but it emasculates the sport and without a doubt will make current and former NFL players cry foul more often than not. Boo to the NFL. Until their is female football keep these girls in the lingerie league.”

“It’s very emasculating to have a woman make decisions in an etirely male sport.”

This one was posted by a woman:

“What next, female quarterbacks? I vote no to women ref’s!!!!”

This one just made me laugh.  I can’t tell if he’s being serious or not…

“A woman ref? They aint real people. They’re made of sugar! Now, can sugar make a call? Huh? Huh?”

Either way, no matter what people think, she did ref a game last night.  They say that the hat she wore will be put in the hall of fame.  I plan to follow this story and see what happens when the regular refs come back.  What do you think?  Will they keep her?  Maybe even hire more women?  Or will things go back to the way they were?


3 thoughts on “Shannon Eastin: The NFL’s First Female Referee

  1. nflfemale says:

    Rumor has it she was the best official on the field yesterday, make most of the other grey hair men look silly. Checkout The #1 NFL site for women

  2. If she can call a good game, no one will notice. Football fans only care if the game is called well, and they could care less about who is making the calls. Only if she’s repeatedly showing poor capabilities as a ref game after game might a significant number of people start to consider her gender as a possible detriment.

    By the way, there’s not a lot of pressure on her – the quality of NFL refs has been down for a while now. Most fans will probably be looking forward to having new folks out there to make the calls.

    Basketball has had two female refs over the past couple of years, one who I understand has a good reputation and one who doesn’t. I thought baseball had had a female umpire back in the ’80s, but it turns out she only did exhibition games, not games that counted in the standings. I’m not aware of Hockey ever having female refs.

  3. Here’s a comment from ESPN about the job being done by the replacement refs. The only reference to Eastin is the writer making the factual point that one of the replacements is female. To the folks where football is the key, the only question is competency –

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