NFL announces first full-time female referee

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Sarah Thomas, backed by 19 years of officiating experience, was named the NFL’s first full-time referee, the league announced Wednesday.

Thomas has eight years of experience in Conference USA and was the first female ref to officiate a major-college bowl game.

The Mississippi native began working high school football in 1999 before working up the ladder. She officiated a Rice-Northwestern game in 2011, which was the first time a female refereed in a Big Ten Stadium.

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Our incoming officials have all demonstrated that they are among the best in college football, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said in a statement. We are excited about having them join us. Thomas had been doing some sideline work for Browns, Saints and Colts minicamp practices in the past, but she truly made her name through a strong resume at the NCAA level. [snip] I don’t feel that it’s been harder for me because I’m a female, Thomas, who also works as a pharmaceutical representative, told ABC News in 2013. I think that we are just out here working as officials. … I think just on our credentials, just as officials, I think that’s what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race.

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