NFL is set to cross a gender line
Although there’s no resolution in sight to the NFL’s lockout of officials, a historic moment for the league is just around the corner.
Shannon Eastin is on the verge of becoming the first woman to work as an on-field official in a game, as she has been assigned as a line judge for Green Bay’s exhibition game Thursday at San Diego.
Eastin has been a referee for high school games in Arizona as well as in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which includes Bethune-Cookman, Coppin State and Howard University.
Eastin could not be reached for comment, and the league declined Monday to talk about the replacements or any negotiations with locked-out officials.
Officials were locked out beginning in June because of a dispute over pay and benefits, and with training camps underway, there are no negotiations scheduled.
NFL officials who moonlight as supervisors for major-college conferences — such as longtime referee Tony Corrente, who oversees the Pac-12 — have discouraged those college officials from working as pro replacements. Therefore, the league has had to tap into the high school, junior college and small-college ranks to assemble the requisite 17 crews.
“That’s why we’ve been training them for the last two months and why they’re on the field now, is to make sure they’re prepared, they understand the rules,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week of the replacements.
Goodell told reporters he hopes there will be more discussions with the regular officials in the near future, “but as you can see, we’re preparing for the season and we will have officials on the field. We hope that the officials from last season will be on the field again this year, but to date, we haven’t been able to get an agreement that makes sense for both parties.”
In recent years, the NFL has kept tabs on the most promising female officials, ones with the potential to work at the highest level. According to locked-out referee Ed Hochuli, Eastin was not in that pool of top candidates.
“There certainly is no reason that women can’t work as officials in the NFL,” said Hochuli, a NFL referee for two decades. “But the league scouts and trains officials for years before they ever bring them in as a rookie in the NFL.
“While it’s great to see the NFL take that step, it’s unfortunate that it’s not one of the qualified prospects that they had previously been considering before the lockout.”
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