Shannon Eastin Set To Be NFL's First Female Ref, But Questions Surround Timing
NFL referee Shannon Eastin tonight “will make history” as the league's first female official during the Packers-Chargers preseason game, and “she is a groundbreaker, but she's also a political pawn in the labor fight between the league and its regular officials,” according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. The question is why the NFL would "want to create a sideshow in the middle of this labor mess instead of waiting to do it the right way.” There is “no need to draw additional attention to the stand-ins, most of whom are lacking big-time football experience.” Admirable and progressive as it may be for the NFL “to promote a woman to that role, the situation feels awkward and rushed because Eastin -- whose experience is limited to high school and small-college officiating -- was not on the short list of the top female candidates before the lockout.” There are women “with more suitable credentials for the job.” It should be “a historic moment, but in reality the NFL has made the mistake of letting her cut in line” (L.A. TIMES, 8/8). Eastin worked the Cardinals’ Red and White scrimmage and coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “I wouldn’t have even noticed she was a woman if somebody hadn’t told me. I think that’s a pretty good sign” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/8). In San Diego, Nick Canepa wrote, “As I’ve already noted, I am not in favor of replacement refs. … But if this is the way they want it, there’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t be awarded an opportunity” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/8).
GOOD FOR THE LEAGUE? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said, “I think it's a great opportunity for her, and for us. She deserves the opportunity, she's well prepared for it, and I think she'll do terrific. So we're excited about that.” He added, "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” (AP, 8/8). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes in different circumstances, Eastin becoming the first woman to officiate an NFL game “would be a great story.” The game is being “nationally televised and surely the NFL hopes Eastin’s presence takes the focus off the labor issue” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/9).
THE REPLACEMENTS: Fox' Mike Pereira, who formerly served as NFL VP/Officiating, said, "I feel bad for these replacement people because they're so overmatched. There's no question to me that the integrity of the game is going to be compromised" ("The McNeil & Spiegel Show," WSCR-AM, 8/7). In Pittsburgh, Brandon Boyd writes Gene Steratore, one of the locked-out referees, said of replacement refs, “I believe they are put in a position that’s going to be tough for them to succeed. It’s not a fair task for them” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/9). NFL Referees Association President Scott Green said, “To think that you can take seven officials who have not worked, in many cases Division I-level football, put them together and put them on the NFL field has got to be unsettling to players, coaches and fans.” But NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said the league does not “think there’s a direct connection” that player safety would be jeopardized by using replacement refs ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 8/7). In Nashville, David Climer wrote under the header, “NFL’s Substitute Referees Deserve Penalty For Start.” Climer: “Get ready for the preseason -- and maybe the regular season -- of discontent. … Trained, experienced NFL refs make plenty of mistakes. Imagine what it’s going to look like with scrub refs” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 8/8). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said if “you have inferior referees, you put the integrity of the game at stake and you put the health and safety of the players at stake.” However, he said, “If you go four exhibition games with these people, this is not brain surgery. Most of them have extensive backgrounds (and) they will get better" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/7).