Shannon Eastin will make history at the Green Bay Packers vs. San Diego Chargers game Thursday by becoming the first woman to officiate an NFL game.
Unfortunately, some might argue, this groundbreaking event comes while the NFL is caught up in yet another lockout, this time with officials. Referees have been locked out since June, when their labor deal expired and talks for a new collective bargaining agreement stalled.
Replacement referees -- like Eastin -- officiated the Hall of Fame game Sunday, the opening game of the 2012 NFL preseason. It was shaky right from the beginning for these officials, considering a zebra accidentally awarded the coin toss to the wrong team – forcing the official to reverse the call 20 seconds later. Heads and tails can be a tough concept for some.
Eastin is part of the replacement contingent, but she does have experience. She worked 16 combined seasons as a referee, working in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), high school games and other small college games. The MEAC is part of the lower division Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) -- and home to such teams as Bethune-Cookman and Hampton University.
Eastin is quite the athlete herself. The Tempe, Ariz. resident has won six national judo championships. At 11 years old, Eastin was also the youngest judo athlete ever to train at the U.S Olympic Training Center.
Of course, Eastin will be out of a refereeing job once the NFL and refs broker a new deal.
League officials are currently meeting with representatives for the officiating crew to come up with a long term contract that will end the lockout. NFL officials want to avoid what happened the last time officials were locked out in 2001, as officials were forced to miss the final preseason game and first regular season.
While Eastin may be making history in the NFL, women have been officiating NBA games for over 15 years. However, the difference between officiating in the NBA and NFL is the level of contact officials may be prone to. NFL officials are thrust into the middle of the action, behind quarterbacks and linebackers alike. Some officials have not kept out of the way, directly interrupting the players on the field, as was the case here.
Nevertheless, this is a tremendous achievement for Eastin, who will be remembered as the first woman to officiate an NFL game.