First female to officiate NFL game will 'break gender stereotypes'

3:33 PM, Aug 8, 2012   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- History will be made Thursday night when Shannon Eastin takes the field in the Green Bay Packers-San Diego Chargers game.

Eastin will serve as line judge in the pre-season match-up and will become the first female to ever officiate an NFL game.

"It is a big deal because it hasn't been done before and maybe in a decade from now, it won't be a big deal," says Teresa Dahlem, a former basketball referee.

Dahlem officiated Division I and WNBA games for many years and says she never really faced the kind of sexism that Shannon Eastin will likely encounter, but says it wasn't always easy.

"It's that delicate balance of not appearing like you're an overly aggressive, assertive woman and still being respected by some of the men you have to work with," says Dahlem.

Those who study women in sports say Eastin will have to work harder than her male counterparts to be perceived as competent. While some will be watching to simply see if she fails, more will simply watch and be inspired.

"I think just as young girls are being inspired and have dreams of gold by watching our female Olympians, young girls can now aspire to be a female referee, which is a very lucrative career," says Dr. Nicole LaVoi with the University of Minnesota's Tucker Center.

The Tucker Center is devoted to the research of girls and women in sports. They know how big this is, especially on the anniversary of Title IX. But it's not just about breaking barriers; it's about shattering stereotypes.

"It shows that women can be in other roles in football other than standing on the sidelines cheering and that's very important for breaking gender stereotypes about leadership and women in positions of power," says LaVoi.

As far as advice? Teresa Dahlem says Eastin doesn't need it. She didn't get this far by accident.

"If she knows the rules and applies the rules equitably and fairly, and she's strong about her calls, she'll be just fine," says Dahlem.

Another obstacle Shannon Eastin will face is NFL officials are locked out in a labor dispute so some might view her as a scab.

(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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