NFL hires 1st full-time female official: Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas officiates during an NCAA football game between Louisiana Tech and North Texas on Sept. 11, 2014.

(Ray Carlin / Associated Press)

Line judge Sarah Thomas is among eight new officials selected by the NFL for the 2015 season, meaning she is the first female permanent game official in league history, an individual with knowledge of the situation told The Times.

The news of Thomas’ hiring was first reported in a tweet Friday by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

An NFL spokesman did not confirm the hiring of Thomas and said the league is still finalizing its roster of officials.

According to the source who spoke to The Times, however, the league has informed current officials that seven men and one woman have been selected as new hires for this season, contingent on them taking physical examinations.


Four officials from the past season are retiring, so the addition of eight new ones means four of them will be “floaters,” not assigned to a specific crew.

Thomas worked a game between Memphis and Jacksonville State in 2007, becoming the first woman to officiate a major college football game.

Two years later, she was selected to work the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Marshall and Ohio, becoming the first woman to officiate a bowl game.

In 2013, she was among 21 finalists in contention for a permanent NFL officiating position. She worked New Orleans Saints practices and spent three days at an Indianapolis Colts minicamp.


Thomas would not be the first female official to work an NFL game, however. During the officiating lockout in 2012, the league hired Shannon Eastin as a temporary, non-union official. She officiated a regular-season game between St. Louis and Detroit.

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