Super Bowl Referee Is A Woman – So What?
Super Bowl Referee Is A Woman – So What?
In case you missed it, there’s a rather large media event going on today. There’s also the Super Bowl. (The two are often not the same thing.)
Aside from the hype about this year’s commercials – which companies release online because they are the culmination of millions of dollars of marketing and sales and pop culture references that are now mostly social messages by companies rather than advertising an actual product – the game has attracted some attention for who will be on the field. No, not Tom Brady. Sarah Thomas.
Sarah Thomas will make history as the first woman to referee a Super Bowl when the championship game kicks off next month, the NFL announced Tuesday.”
Thomas will be part of a seven-person crew officiating and work as a down judge at Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay on February 7. NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, Sr. called the group of referees “the best of the best” in a statement.”
“Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official,” Vincent said. “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor.”
So naturally, the NFL is going full in on GRRRRRRRL POWER.
“Knowing the impact that I’m having on not just my daughter, but young girls everywhere…is remarkable and I’m truly honored and humbled to be a part of this year’s Super Bowl crew.”
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) February 6, 2021
Now, as a woman, you might think I should care. I really don’t.
I care inasmuch as no woman should be blocked out of a job simply because of her gender. That means astronaut, doctor, dentist, president, prime minister, or Super Bowl referee. But this is the 21st century, not 1950. The only barriers that truly exist for women these days are in people’s heads.
Am I denying that there is discrimination out there? Not at all. But that isn’t part of Sarah Thomas’s story – at least, not the one that is being told today. I am pleased for her because, as she says in her interview video above, this is the pinnacle of her profession. Officiating a Super Bowl is a big deal for a NFL referee, not just because of their race or gender.
This is the moment where I should break out the Martin Luther King quote about being judged only on the “content of (their) character,” because IT MAKES SENSE. Who cares if a NFL referee is a woman if she can do the job that she has been selected to do, and do it well? That really is the true test. Can Sarah Thomas be a part of the referee team for the Super Bowl without her gender coming up every time she makes a call? The answer is no, thanks to the media who will mention it every time she does A Thing today. Could we just let her do her job in peace?
Alternatively, when Sarah Thomas makes a bad call, can we not bring gender into it as well? Lots of NFL referees make bad calls. Women have no inherent edge on not making a bad call over men. I am reminded of this quote by Maureen Reagan:
I will feel equality has arrived when we can elect to office women who are as incompetent as some of the men who are already there.”
By that reckoning, we will not see true equality until a female NFL referee who is the equivalent of Major League Baseball umpires like Angel Hernandez or C.B. Bucknor or Joe West can’t be fired because of their union protection or the bad press optics that would go with it.
There is no indication that Sarah Thomas is anything but a decent referee, so if we could just get past the rah-rah girl power stuff, and simply acknowledge that men and women often have very different goals in life, and neither side should be condemned for being either traditional OR non-conforming.
So, here is wishing a clean Super Bowl to Sarah Thomas and the rest of the officiating crew. May your jobs be easy today, and may the biggest chatter about the Super Bowl deal with commercials as it has been the past, and not the game play.