Sarah Thomas makes history as first woman to officiate NFL playoff game

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FILE – In 2015, NFL official Sarah Thomas made history as the first female to be a full-time game official in the NFL. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gail Burton, file)
FILE – In 2015, NFL official Sarah Thomas made history as the first female to be a full-time game official in the NFL. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gail Burton, file)

Sarah Thomas will make history this weekend when she becomes the first woman to officiate an NFL Playoff game.

Serving as one of seven official referees on the field, Thomas will be the down judge for the game between Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots on Sunday.

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“This is a big deal,” said Sam Rapoport, the senior director of football development at the NFL who has also advocated for more opportunities for women in football.

Not only is Thomas’s presence on the gridiron notable. The title of her position was recently changed from “head linesman” to “down judge” by Senior VP of NFL Officiating Al Riveron to be more inclusive.


“I would love for girls growing up in this country to believe that if they love the sport as much as I do, that they could be a part of it,” she told People.

Thomas’s career has been an ongoing blitz against sexism in the NFL. In 2007, she was the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game. Eight years later, she became the first full-time female official in the National Football League.

After receiving the job offer in 2015, Thomas said she “was speechless,” according to CNN, and was honored to be considered a “trailblazer” for female officials.

Though Thomas has been the only female referee in the league for much of her career, Jen Welter, the first female NFL assistant coach, said that when she was hired in 2015, she “started the dominos” for women in the league.

In fact, replay official Terri Valenti, who became the first woman to hold that title in 2017, will also make history on Saturday at the Indianapolis Colts-Kansas City Chiefs game as the first woman to hold her position in a post-season game.


Thomas says she wants to focus on “being the best official I can be.” However, she has acknowledged the role her gender has played in her career.

“As women, the way we carry ourselves speaks a lot. Field presence is what they talk about,” she said in an interview with SB Nation. “When we carry ourselves with confidence and walk into a room with confidence, the atmosphere changes.”



 

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