First female NFL referee to debut tonight

On Thursday night, August 9, Shannon Eastin will become the first woman to officiate a National Football League (NFL) game as a line judge in the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Chargers preseason opener.

Though she has never donned a football uniform, Eastin has 16 years of experience refereeing football, including for NCAA Division 1-AA during the past four seasons and has described the opportunity as “a dream coming true.” She said she is excited to show that gender is overshadowed by hard work.

Her selection comes at a trying time for the NFL, which has resulted in a bit of a cloud over Eastin’s historic moment. The NFL Referees Association is still locked in a tense collective bargaining battle, which means that, at least to some, Eastin is a “scab.”

As a replacement official, it is unlikely that Eastin will continue her NFL career once an agreement is reached, but she is not letting that prospect, nor the criticism she has received for crossing the picket line, dampen her enthusiasm.

Eastin told ABC News in an interview, “I believe that I’m ready. I’m a realistic type person. I know what’s realistic for me. It’s not realistic for me to play in the NFL, but it is realistic for me to officiate. I’ve done a lot to make myself ready for this opportunity. I’m going in with my eyes wide open and I’m going to continue to work hard.”

Eastin has been breaking barriers since girlhood, when she was the youngest female judo competitor to be selected to train at the U. S. Olympic Training Center.

Women have been officials for the National Basketball Association for 15 seasons as well as umpires in Major League Baseball during spring training games, and members of the ChargersĀ told NBC Sports that they embraced the change in the NFL.