On Thursday, Shannon Eastin will officially become the first female NFL referee when she serves as the line judge for the Green Bay Packers-San Diego Chargers preseason game.
Eastin, 42, has worked Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games as well as the Arizona Cardinals' Red and White game. According to the Los Angeles Times, she has also logged time at the NFL training clinic. Eastin told the Associated Press that that she hopes to be the first in a long line of female NFL officials.
"I want to encourage women: Don't be afraid," Eastin said told AP. "Pursue and have dreams. This is my dream. With every step, I hope to show it really doesn't matter if you are male or female."
Eastin's employment with the league comes amidst some controversial circumstances as she is being hired during a union dispute. The NFL is currently locking out the full-time officials and will move forward with their replacements while they continue their talks.
Nonetheless, she told reporters that working for the NFL has long been a dream of hers and despite the conditions surrounding her employment with the league; she plans on putting her best foot forward.
"Hopefully there is some understanding on their part (that) I have got to do what's in the best interest of myself," Eastin said, "just as they have to do what is in their best interest."
Last August, Carl Johnson, the NFL's head of officials, said that he expected to hire a female official. "We have some in our pipeline, and I expect we'll see it soon."
Green Bay Packers defensive back Charles Woodson spoke with NFL.com to weigh-in on the subject and let people know exactly how he felt.
"It's probably about time," Woodson said about the NFL having a female official. "I'm sure women have probably tried at some point along the way leading up to this point, so I would assume it's somebody qualified out there that we won't have to jump over for making bad calls. ... So hats off to her and whoever decided to make it happen.
"It may take some people by surprise, but I think once the game starts flowing, the only way you're going to notice her is if she makes a bad call."