On January 13, 2019, during the Chargers vs. Patriots game, Sarah Thomas became the first female to be an on field official in a NFL playoff game when she assumed the position of Down Judge. This is a huge step in a sport that is extremely male dominated. Sarah Thomas has been leading the way for female officials in the sport of football for many years. In 2009, Thomas was the only female official at the Football Bowl Subdivision for college football. That same season, she became the first female to officiate a bowl game when she officiated the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. In 2015, Thomas became the first full time official in NFL history.
Amidst these amazing feats, Thomas does not like to think about herself as just a trailblazer. Instead, every time she steps onto the field, she is just focused on being the best official that she can be. As Thomas is breaking the gender barriers in sports, lots of little girls and young women look up to her. Through her, they see that anything is possible, as long as they put their mind to it.
For more information on the gender divide in American football, this article can provide some further insight.
Women have spent a number of years trying to become involved in the sport of football. As players, they have encountered obstacles females in the sport since the 1970s.
As a little side note, prior to the 2017 season, the NFL changed the position name of “head linesman” to “down judge” as a way to be more inclusive. The responsibilities of the position remained the same, only the name of the position changed.