The running back weaves across the field with the football pinned securely in his right side. He dodges past a not-quite-fast-enough outside linebacker and streaks down the edge of the sideline toward the end zone. 10… 5… the ref throws his arms straight up toward the sky as the runner crosses the goal line. TOUCHDOWN!
What’s particularly remarkable and wonderful about this upcoming fall weekend tradition? That ref could be a woman.What’s particularly remarkable about this upcoming fall weekend tradition? That ref could be a woman. Click To Tweet
The football field has conventionally not been a particularly hospitable place for women. Whereas we make up over 44% of the NFL fan base (http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/09/28/nfl-turns-its-marketing-attention-to-female-football-fans/), we’ve had to be happy as spectators or cheerleaders. Don’t get me wrong: watching football, cheering for my favorite team, and Monday morning armchair quarterbacking are all personal faves. And, I do understand that the physicality needed to play collegiate or professional level football is difficult for women (and most men) to attain – but not impossible. What I don’t subscribe to is the notion that somehow women aren’t capable of working as football referees or commentators.
In 2015 a glass ceiling of sorts, let’s call it a gridiron barricade, cracked a bit (I won’t say broke or shattered – it’s one ref out of hundreds so let’s not get too giddy here), when Sarah Thomas became the first woman in NFL history to officiate a professional football game. Being a pioneer was nothing new for Sarah: according to ESPN she also was the first woman to officiate a major college football game as well as a collegiate bowl game. For the record, Sarah has joined the list of women I’d like to invite to Kimba’s ultimate gal pal cocktail party.
It’s worth noting that women as football sideline reporters has become the norm, even the preference of most networks. However, this work is plagued by stereotypes that perpetuate the idea that sideline reporters don’t need to possess a proficiency in the sport of football. All that’s required is an ability to get a coach or a player to blurt out a few comments into the mic as they rush past. The term “sideline princess” is not meant as a compliment.The term “sideline princess” is not meant as a compliment. Click To Tweet
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: the gals are heading toward a football stadium near you. As common as it is to now see sisters-in-sports pacing the sidelines for a good angle from which to watch the next great play/player/coach, I steadfastly believe we’ll begin to also see more women referees and the advent of the female football commentator. For example, check out KNBR’s Kate Scott and her work as an NFL radio commentator:
It wasn’t so long ago that there were no female news anchors; look how that has changed. I’m living for the day (well, night) when the phrase “Are you ready for some football?” is asked by a woman in the Monday night football commentator booth. I envision a brigade of young women, armed with their communication and sports marketing degrees and knowledge of all things football, spreading out across stadiums nationwide, pushing their way into the press box and asking,
“So fellas, what do you think: flex defense or zone blitz?”
To celebrate today as Women’s Equality Day, let’s offer up a toast to Sarah Thomas and all those who follow in her footsteps. May her calls be forever fair and never challenged.To celebrate Women's Equality Day, a toast to Sarah Thomas & all who follow in her footsteps. Click To Tweet
Have you ever been told you can’t do something based on your gender? How did you react?
Cheers (and of course GO NOLES!),
Joyce Hansen saysSeptember 2, 2016 at 12:21 am
One of the reasons for more women in formerly male-dominated roles in sports is the increased presence of women as spectators. It’s becoming a large financial market that sports businesses can no longer afford to ignore. Women are loyal fans and spend money on more than beer and hot dogs.
Kimba saysSeptember 3, 2016 at 11:20 am
Oh, the NFL is a savvy business to be sure. They can’t ignore a 44% market share of their fan base.
Beverley Golden saysAugust 28, 2016 at 11:59 am
As someone who isn’t a sports fan, (other than watching the Olympics), I am happy to see that women are making strides off the field, but hopefully on the field as well. I’ve been seeing ads for a new TV series called “Pitch” and the premise of the show revolves around the first female pitcher in the major leagues. Let’s hope this is a predictor of what happens in the real world too! Thanks for sharing Sarah Thomas with us and may she be the first of many. To answer your question, I was always told I could do anything and actually went off to business school (late 60’s) where I was one of ten women in a class of 400! We’ve come a long way…got a long way to go.
Kimba saysSeptember 3, 2016 at 11:41 am
I had not heard about “Pitch.” Sounds awesome. And, I was a criminology major in the early 80s – often one of just two or three females in the class. Today many crim programs are over 50% female enrollment.
Terry saysAugust 27, 2016 at 12:18 am
I was brought up by a family who said we ( 3 girls) could do anything. We still chose ” female type jobs as that was what we were comfortable with in the late 60’s.
This fits well with today’s announcement of the first female skating coach for NHL.
Kimba saysAugust 28, 2016 at 9:14 am
I just heard about the Dawn Braid, the skating coach for the Arizona Coyotes. Great news!
Betsy Ashton saysAugust 26, 2016 at 5:13 pm
Yes. I was told in grade school that girl’s didn’t “get” math. So, I took them at their words. I still don’t “get” math.
Kimba saysAugust 28, 2016 at 9:31 am
Yeah, I pretty much suck at math as well. However, I blame this on being the victim of the Florida public school system.
Marquita Herald saysAugust 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm
Oh my, I had no idea today was Women’s Equality Day! As to your question, YES. When I earned my shot as a national sales manager in the hotel industry the old boy’s network was alive and in charge and everywhere I went I was the only woman. They weren’t necessarily a mean bunch, but they joked behind my back and didn’t take me seriously either, at least until I started beating them out in sales. Some of them became friends, others behaved like children in a schoolyard brawl, but I hung in there. Then I was promoted to international sales and assigned Japan and went through it all over again. While I’ve had more than my share of people telling me what I couldn’t do, my way of responding has always been the same – just go out there and show them that I could not only do it, but better than most of them. 🙂
Kimba saysAugust 28, 2016 at 9:41 am
Marty, I pity any fool who thinks you cannot rule the world.
InspiredByMyMom saysAugust 26, 2016 at 12:02 pm
A positive development after all the sexism at the Rio Olympics.
Kimba saysAugust 28, 2016 at 10:23 am
Reba Linker saysAugust 26, 2016 at 11:34 am
Interesting post. Good for her, if that’s what she wants! It’s an awesome feeling to fulfill your dreams and do the things you feel you are born to do, and the things that make you happy. So I celebrate this achievement all the way.
Kimba saysAugust 28, 2016 at 10:28 am
Thx Reba. Looking forward to the day when more women will be able to fulfill their dreams in all ways in all fields.
Kate Mayer saysAugust 26, 2016 at 11:09 am
This. All of this. In spite of the mansplaining happening every frickin’ day, and the hemanwomenhating trolls, the times, they are a changin’ and women are rising to the top.
Kimba saysAugust 28, 2016 at 10:33 am
Yes we are on the move! Bring it on, right?!