Sarah Thomas Changes the Rules of the Game
While the New England Patriots advancing to a conference title game is by no means a first, their game on the 13th of January against the Los Angeles Chargers was a part of history as down judge Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate an NFL postseason game. This game was not Thomas’ first time making history either, she was the first woman to become a full-time NFL official in 2015. Thomas was also the first woman to officiate a collegiate football game in 2007, and it would be no surprise to see her continue breaking barriers in the world of sports in the future.
Sarah Thomas’ achievements have opened the gate to more gender diversification in the NFL and in sports in general. For instance, her participation in the League lent a hand in getting the term for her officiating position “head linesman” changed to down judge, a much more gender-neutral term. Hopefully this change will facilitate more women following Thomas’ path as these preconceived notions of manhood in athletic organizations are deconstructed and more women are considered for the job. Thomas’ position as an official also opens more options for girls wanting to participate in athletics in general. Often, girls are led to believe that their options in athletics are limited to either participating as a player or as part of the media, which are roles that can frequently be close-ended in today’s understandings of women in sports. The possibility of participation in the form of officiating or management is generally not considered, but hopefully when young girls read about Sarah Thomas or see her on TV officiating some of the biggest games in sports, they realize that they belong in all aspects of athletics.