Sarah Thomas blazes new trail as first woman to referee NFL playoff game
Sarah Thomas was the first woman to referee a college football bowl game, and the first full-time female referee in the NFL, and she has now made further history by becoming the first woman to referee an NFL playoff game.
The 46-year-old’s record-breaking achievement came Sunday when she took to the field at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. to serve as down judge for the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots.
The Patriots were leading 35-7 at half-time.
Thomas has been a football referee for around two decades, having officiated her first varsity high school game in 1999.
The mother of three boys, she was part of the NFL’s officiating development program in 2013 and 2014 and worked at mini-camps, training camps and exhibition games before getting hired full-time in 2015.
That same year, her hometown of Pascagoula, Mass. renamed its recreational gym in honour of the trailblazing referee and former high school basketball and softball standout.
NFL Network analyst and former wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. hailed Thomas’ appointment, saying she was an “outstanding” referee.
“She’d stand firm with her calls, you couldn’t come up to her with any BS,” Smith Sr. said. “She knew exactly what she was doing. If guys tried to challenge her, she didn’t back down… and she moved on and did her job.”
— With files from the Associated Press
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