Shannon Eastin, a referee from the HBCU’s MEAC, will become the first female to referee in an NFL game when she serves as line judge in the Green Bay Packers preseason game against the Chargers in San Diego.
Eastin is part of replacement referees who are being used as untion officials hold out in negotiations for a new deal.
She is a 17-year veteran as a football referee, the last four working in the MEAC, a conference that includes Norfolk Statke, Hampton, Howard, Florida A&M, South Carolina State, North Carolina A&T, among others.
If a player gets ornery with her, Eastin can defend herself. She won six national judo championships and, at age 11, was the youngest judo athlete accepted to train at the United States Olympics Training Center.
Some Green Bay players were surprised at the news.
“Female, male, dog, cat, as long as they’re calling the right calls and they know what they’re doing out there, it really doesn’t matter,” tight end Jermichael Finley told FOXSportsWisconsin.com in an exclusive interview. “It’s a person. She’ll see the same things as a man. She knows how to blow the whistle the same way. It’s going to be something weird to see, but you deal with it and just roll.”
“I think it’s great,” Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji told the website. “Especially in football, being such a machismo sport, you get the cliché that this is a man’s game. But obviously she’s taken the right protocol, she obviously had the proper training, and hopefully she does a good job for her sake (and) for future female football fans that are considering wanting to be a female official.”
Later, as a small group of reporters formed, Raji was asked if he would hesitate to complain about a call to a female referee.
Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who is slated to miss eight games as being a part of the bounty scandal last year with New Orleans, said: “Really? Wow. That’s impressive. I think that’s great strides for women in reffing. My son’s mom is a ref, so maybe she can switch over to football and she can ref one of my games or something.”
Packers running back Brandon Saine had also not yet heard the news about Eastin.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Saine said. “I grew up in a predominantly female household. I was raised by my grandmother and my mother and I have two sisters. Women have always been a huge part of my life and I’m always going to be supportive of anything like that.”
Regardless of gender, Raji said he is OK with replacement referees “for now.”
“Let’s face it, some of the regular referees have some questionable calls,” Raji added. “It’s going to happen, it’s human error, but hopefully with the replay and the refs up in the booth, if there is a mistake, hopefully it will get corrected.”