Sarah Thomas tackles NFL history

Sarah Thomas makes a call during a preseason NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers, August 15, 2014 in Seattle. Courtesy of

Sarah Thomas makes a call during a preseason NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers, August 15, 2014 in Seattle.  Courtesy of
Sarah Thomas makes a call during a preseason NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers, August 15, 2014 in Seattle.
Courtesy of

The National Football League (NFL) scored a touchdown off the field by hiring Ms. Sarah Thomas as its first female referee for the 2015 football season. After 20 years of experience, the 41-year-old is making sports history by creating her own path in the male-dominated world of football. 
Ms. Thomas was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and developed an early passion for sports. She played basketball and softball while growing up and earned a scholarship to play basketball in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) at the University of Mobile, according to The New York Times.
Starting in 1995, Ms. Thomas began her football refereeing career at the high-school level. Gerald Austin, a retired NFL official scouted Thomas and invited her to attend an officials’ camp, where he was impressed by her performance. In 2007, the Conference USA, a collegiate level conference, hired Ms. Thomas to be a fulltime official, according to
After six years of officiating college football, the NFL asked her to join its Officiating Development Program, which trains individuals to officiate professional football games. Ms. Thomas was one of the development program’s finalists in 2014, when the NFL selected her to be the first permanent official for the 2015 football season, according to
Ms. Thomas expressed her passion to officiate football in an interview with ESPN.
“I didn’t set out to break a glass ceiling or a gender barrier. If you’re doing things because you love them, then things have a tendency to just kind of fall into place,” Thomas said.
When the NFL announced the news, fan response was mixed. While many congratulated her on her accomplishment, others called the situation “disgusting” and expressed the belief that it  “will lead to the downfall of football” on Twitter.
Athletes in the NFL similarly expressed their concern about the hiring of Ms. Thomas.
Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks stated in ainterview with TMZ that Ms. Thomas’ hiring was a publicity stunt for the league and that the NFL is simply monopolizing its opportunities, according to The Washington Post.
Convent of the Sacred Heart senior and two sport varsity captain, Claire O’Neill predicts that the press will constantly observe Ms. Thomas’ journey as the only female official in the league.
“If she makes a controversial call, it’s easy to say she made the call because she’s a female and doesn’t belong in the NFL, even if she’s just as qualified, if not more qualified as the other referees,” Claire said.
Despite Ms. Thomas’ refereeing background, she has already endured challenges on the field.
Conference USA asked her to tuck her hair under her hat and wear no makeup. The conference wanted her to be less of a distraction and blend in more with the other male referees on the field. Although Ms. Thomas was in shock, she followed their requests because of her love for officiating, according to
Mrs. Ridgley Biddle, Sacred Heart Administrative Assistant to the Athletic Director, and a referee for field hockey and lacrosse, expressed her admiration for Ms. Thomas’ perseverance and the importance for more women to be involved as referees.
“Just because women do not play football does not mean that there are not millions of female football fans.  Women should absolutely be involved as referees in all sports,” Mrs. Biddle said. “Overall, we have a shortage of women officials and it is important for young girls to see that women are just as capable to call a game as a man.”
In an interview with Good Morning America, Ms. Thomas inspires others to follow their dreams despite personal obstacles.
“I just say this, don’t go out to try to prove somebody wrong,” Thomas said. “Go and do things, whether you’re female or male, black or white, just do it because you believe in yourself and you know you’re there to do the job,” Ms. Thomas said.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) currently has three female officials. National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) are the only leagues in the United States that currently do not have female referees, according to
– Kristen Davis, Staff Writer