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Shannon Eastin takes the field as first female NFL referee

Referee Shannon Eastin.
Referee Shannon Eastin.
Courtesy of the San Diego Chargers/NFL

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Tomorrow night, the NFL will make history by putting the first female referee on the field. Shannon Eastin will officiate the preseason opener between the San Diego Chargers and the Green Bay Packers. KPCC's A Martinez explains why it's taken so long for a female official to break through.

Unlike the NBA, which already has one female referee, there is no female counterpart of football in women's sports. Much like baseball, which also has yet to use a female umpire. It's a sport dominated by men throughout the ranks, from the Commissioner's suite to the field. Women have only recently risen through executive ranks in front offices, yet they still have yet to be hired as general managers or even as scouts.

Eastin is no stranger to physical athletics, having earned six national judo championships, but concerns about her experience could arise. Eastin will be making a big jump from the small college Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to the NFL. Mike Pereira, a former referee and former VP of Officiating for the NFL, detailed what the biggest challenges will be.

"The speed is something that is going to be very difficult," said Pereira. And also, the rules knowledge and the enforcement, it's totally different than you have in college or high school."

Another part of learning curve will be the intimidation factor. Football players tend to try and influence refs as much as possible. Eastin is not only a woman, but she's also a rookie referee as well. But Pereira expects that to even out quickly.

"Once we get into it, they'll treat her like everybody else and she'll take the abuse that everybody takes," Pereira said. "She's a tough cookie who's worked a lot of Division 2 football and a number of years in other levels too."