Shannon Eastin makes NFL history

Updated: September 10, 2012, 11:11 AM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Shannon Eastin has made NFL history.

Eastin was the line judge in Sunday's St. Louis Rams-Detroit Lions game, making her the first woman to be an official in a regular-season game.

[+] EnlargeShannon Eastin
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioLine judge Shannon Eastin made NFL history in the Lions-Rams game, becoming the first woman to officiate a regular-season game.

She is among the replacement officials hired by the league while the regular officials are locked out. Replacement officials are working games for the first time in 11 years.

The only time her pony tail could be seen was during the national anthem, after which she tucked it under her cap and got ready to work.

Eastin became the first female official to work an NFL preseason game last month as the line judge when Green Bay played at San Diego. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has the hat and whistle she used during that preseason game, and they'll be displayed in Canton, Ohio.

The 42-year-old resident of Tempe, Ariz. has worked as a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference -- college football's second-highest level -- and has 16 years of officiating experience. MEAC officials declined comment on Eastin, as did the NFL in the days leading up to the groundbreaking assignment.

"Commenting on individual officials is not something we do," league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email. "Her place in league history speaks for itself."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said having Eastin on the field is a great opportunity for her and the league.

"She's well prepared for it, and I think she'll do terrific," Goodell said last month. "So we're excited about that.

"And there are more coming, by the way. We've been working along this path to try to properly train and prepare a female official, and now we have the opportunity."

The NFL declined to make Eastin available for interviews during the week leading up to the game and didn't plan to allow media to have access to her following the Rams-Lions game, but did set up a conference call with her in August.

"I hope to show it really doesn't matter if you are male or female," Eastin said last month.

Eastin, who is originally from Worcester, Mass., was a multiple national judo champion as a child and started officiating high school games before moving up to colleges. She owns a company called SE Sports Officiating, which trains officials in football and basketball.

"I'll be working even harder, to show I am capable and I am where I should be," Eastin has said.

She is joining a small group of women to break into officiating ranks at the highest levels of sports.

"It's a sign of the times," Lions center Dominic Raiola said. "The NBA did it."

Violet Palmer, one of Eastin's inspirations, started officiating NBA games in 1997 and is still in the league. Bernice Gera became the first woman to work in baseball's minor leagues in 1972 as an umpire in a New York-Penn League game. Pam Postema umpired major league spring training games in 1989 and Triple-A baseball for six seasons.

The locked-out NFL Referees Association has said Eastin shouldn't be allowed to work league games because she has been in the World Series of Poker. If Eastin is hired permanently, the NFL's gambling policy would bar her from participating in such events.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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