Female referee hopes to make it into the big leagues

Female referee hopes to make it into the big leagues
Photo provided by CNN.

POSTED: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 8:30pm

UPDATED: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 8:34pm

The National Football League has been handling some very bad P-R recently.

The string of player problems and therefore the league's problems reads like a crime novel. Including a murder charge against a former Patriot's player.

There's a story getting some attention today that's definitely an image booster. The NFL may be getting ready to hire it's first full-time female ref.

Are you ready for some football? And while we're at it, is football ready for this?

"When you think about perhaps being an official in the NFL, what do you worry about as a female?"

"I think that the biggest concern I have as a female is making sure that my uniform fits the right way, and other that it's just I'm out there just like one of the guys," said Thomas. "You know I've got a job to do just like they do, and yeah, knowing the rules, that's just what the job requirement is and I gotta know it just like they do."

"Does that sheer mass of guys out on the field worry you?"

"I don't work in fear. I have a job. I've got to do and manage the line of scrimmage, the line judge position, and with experience comes just that. You know being able to read the play where there's a pass or a run, or if it's a busted play being able to get out of the way," said Thomas.

If there's an opening in 2014, Sarah Thomas has a good chance to become the first female full-time NFL official.

But breaking the grass ceiling has never been her goal.

"The guys that I officiate with, they understand that yeah, I'm a female, and individually we're all different, regardless of race or gender and I understand that being female there's going to be some focus on that, but collectively we're one when we're out there and on the field and we're all trying to strive for the same reasons, same goals, to work the perfect game." said Thomas.

"Have you surprised anybody when you first come onto the field and they find out later you're female?"

"Sure, well if I'm around the guys and I"m the only one out here wearing mascara and lipstick, so they kinda pick up on it pretty quickly when they hear me talk, but I've had a lot of people say, "I told you that was a girl!" when I left the field and had my hair down or something. So those are the games I want. I want to go unnoticed just like the other six guys on the field." said Thomas.

At the New Orleans Saints training center, they tend to see Thomas' turf-breaking role in black and white.

"It's pretty cool for a country that speaks so much about equality to have women, not only officiating the game, but at the highest level," said Saints Wide Receiver, Lance Moore. "All I know she is wearing black and white stripes and has a hat on. So everything is normal."

"No problem as long as she is making the right calls, which nobody is going to like or agree with, so everybody hates officials, so she will be hated like the rest of them," said Saints Tight End, Jimmy Graham.

"I think it would be hard for a coach to yell at a female official maybe like he would a male official, and that's just being honest," said Saints Safety Roman Harper.

"They're gonna be people they're gonna judge you as a female."

"You know, the bad calls' gonna come and hopefully there's enough good calls out there that precede it that way, when it happens, we're human, and regardless of gender or race or whatever, it may be we are gonna make a mistake." said Thomas.

For a story that may or may not happen for more than a year, Thomas is being pushed aggressively to the media by the NFL. In truth, the organization could use a little gridiron make over.

In recent months, players have been picked up on concealed weapons charges, accused of racism, charged with manslaughter, involved in a murder-suicide, and charged with murder.

"It says to me that the NFL is trying to put out a good story. Would I be wrong to kind of look at this as..."

"I think it's a, with diversity it's a core principle of the NLF. So this is right in line with out values. Sarah's worked her way to this point and it's a nice by-product for the NFL that she's a female and it's a great story, absolutely," said NFL VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino.

"We're not sure, although you look like you're on a path to becoming an NFL officiant, but it won't be at least until 2014, so in my mind I think I wonder why they're putting her out there now?"

"I really, I can't answer that as to why they're putting me out now. I was told I needed to do it so here I am," said Thomas.

Other people's agendas are just that. For Thomas, the focus is the same as it's always been: officiating the perfect game.

Line Judge 153 is ready for some football...sounds like football is ready for her.

"She's just going to be another one of those terrible guys that's out there, that's calling the game, that is screws up the game for us...you know...and she is going to be just like the rest of us," said NFL official, Walt Coleman.

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