CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. (AP) — Shannon Eastin could be the first of several female game officials in the league, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Eastin is a replacement line judge who will make her NFL debut in Thursday night’s Green Bay at San Diego exhibition game. The regular officials are locked out by the league after their contract expired.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for her, and for us,” Goodell said Wednesday at an ethics in sports seminar. “She deserves the opportunity, she’s well prepared for it, and I think she’ll do terrific. 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.”
Eastin is a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (FCS division) and also runs a company that trains officials in football and basketball.
“There are probably not as many women as I like” attending her classes, the 42-year-old Eastin said on a conference call Tuesday. “I want to encourage women: Don’t be afraid. Pursue and have dreams. This is my dream. With very step I hope to show it really doesn’t matter if you are male or female.”
Goodell didn’t specify if future women officials would be hired on a regular basis or as replacements during the lockout.
“They could be replacements, or they could be – hopefully this is not going to be long term,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get this resolved sooner rather than later. But we’re prepared to go forward with the season, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve prepared our replacement officials.”