This Thursday night, history will be made on ESPN: A woman will referee an NFL game for the first time. Shannon Eastin has been calling games since 1996 on the high school and college level, and thanks to an ongoing labor dispute with the referees' union, the league has enlisted a small army of replacements, including Eastin, who will officiate the upcoming Packers- Chargers pre-season game.
There's not much information out there about Eastin aside from this video of a controversial (and game deciding) call in a college game last year. Certainly, Eastin will find herself under the microscope Thursday and her every call will be scrutinized. Last year the SE Sports Officiating blog asked her what advice she might offer other women looking to break into the field:
You will never be able to control every situation. Focus on the things that you can: things like staying in shape, knowing the rules and being in the right position on the field.
If you are a women, don’t be afraid of a sport like football. It can be alot of fun. You will meet people that will want to help you and see you be successful. Surround yourself with those type of people and work hard.
Will Eastin break a big enough hole through the glass ceiling to make room for more female refs on the field of America's most macho sport? It's hard to get exuberantly hopeful when the only female ref in the NBA broke that barrier six years ago, but still has no female peers. ESPN recently asked Violet Palmer for advice "for women going into the man's world of sports." Her response was direct.
First, I don't think it's a man's world although they keep saying that. When I first came in there were no female commentators and now every single sport except baseball and hockey has female commentators. It's phenomenal. If I can do the job, you can't deny me.
We wish Eastin all the best on Thursday as she takes the field to do her job.