The movement of women in sports isn’t limited to just the playing field. Shannon Eastin will become the first female referee to officiate an NFL football game. She will be one of the replacement referees for Thursday’s nationally televised preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the Green Bay Packers.
Eastin is well aware of the situation and she’s embracing it.
“As a child I wanted to play football and my mother said no,” Eastin said in an interview.
That didn’t stop her from achieving her dream of being involved in the sport. The Arizona native knew she’d never play football, so instead she became a referee.
Eastin, brings 17 years of experience, including working as a crew chief in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Without a doubt Eastin knows she will be watched closely. ”Knowing that I’m a female in a man’s world, I always place the most pressure on myself” Eastin said. “Understanding that everything I do will be magnified.”
Until now any opposition to Eastin’s working in an actual NFL game has come from her experience, or lack thereof. NFL referees are required to have 10 years of officiating experience and five of those years must be at the collegiate level. Eastin falls short of that required time, by about a year.
So female or not, she’s got an uphill battle.
Primarily, she has to prove to fans and players alike that she’s qualified for the job, and is capable of making the right call at the right time. One common concern among fans is that replacement referees, regardless of gender, will miss calls, which the locked-out officials would be less apt to miss.
Eastin isn’t letting those negative thoughts get in her way though. Commenting on her situation she said, “For me this is my dream coming true. I’m honored the NFL has chosen to place me in this position, I feel blessed, I’m excited. This is very exciting for me.”
On the verge of making history as the first NFL female referee, Eastin seems confident in herself and her abilities “I know what I signed up for,” she said.
For Shannon Eastin’s sake and that of other female referees, I hope that she calls a clean game. This could be the first step necessary to proving that gender has nothing to do with a person’s ability to referee an NFL game.