First-ever Female NFL Referee Will Work Chargers-Packers Game Thursday
Yes, that game will be on national television, so you can see with your own two eyes the first female ref working an NFL game. Chargers-Packers will be broadcast live on ESPN Thursday night at 8 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. PDT.
The Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer first broke the news that a female official will work the Chargers-Packers game. Farmer was also the first to report last week that the NFL was training Shannon Eastin as their first-ever female official. The San Diego Chargers have confirmed Ms. Eastin's assignment to work the game on their web site.
Ms. Eastin is a replacement referee, one of the short-term replacements filling in during the NFL referee lockout. These replacement referees are likely to be dismissed once the NFL and the regular refereees reach a new labor agreement.
You'll notice that the NFL is not burying Ms. Eastin in a blacked-out, low-audience game that no one will watch -- they're putting her front and center in a nationally televised game on ESPN. The quality of her debut performance will be out there for everyone to critique or celebrate.
This also puts the NFL Referees Association in kind of a box. One of the NFLRA's main arguments is that the replacement referees' officiating is of poor quality. They released a list of all the replacement referees' mistakes in Sunday's Saints-Falcons preseason opener. Players were reportedly openly mocking the replacement refs for their mistakes, with one anonymously telling CBS Sports, "We were all laughing on the sidelines at how clueless they were."
But when guys start complaining about a pioneer figure in gender equality, guys tend to come across as jerks. Admit it -- it's difficult to sympathize with men who pick on women. Many people find it inspiring and genuinely cool that a woman is refereeing a pro football game. For the NFL Referee's Association, the public relations blowback efforts just got a little more complicated.