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Sarah Thomas: NFL’s First Female Referee

Sarah Thomas doesn’t like to identify herself as just a female or even a pioneer; just an official.

Image via YouTube screencapture

Meet Sarah Thomas, one of nine new referees hired by the National Football League on Wednesday, and more notably, the NFL’s first female full-time official.


The 41-year-old mother of three was the first woman to officiate college games in 2007, and also broke ground as the first female official in a bowl game, the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

Despite her pioneering history, she doesn’t consider herself a hero or a trailblazer. “I am a female, but I don’t look at myself as just a female,” Thomas said last June while working a Cleveland Browns minicamp, reports ESPN. “I look at myself as an official.”

Jacksonville Jaguars lineman Sen’Derrick Marks recently voiced his opinions about the appointment, calling it a publicity stunt.

“It’s just like the Michael Sam situation—if he wasn’t gay, he would have gone undrafted,’’ Marks told TMZ. “Instead, the league drafts him because I think they are trying to monopolize every aspect of the world. The same thing with a female ref.”

Marks’ statement, quite possibly a publicity stunt of its own, unsurprisingly resulted in some bad personal media attention. He clarified that he has nothing against women referees, however. Apparently, he just wants to see quality officiating on the field.

“For women, it’s great,” Marks said. “Ain’t nothing wrong with it, especially as long as she knows what she’s doing.”

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