#360USA: NFL is finally catching up on gender equality

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Gender equality: The San Antonio Spurs appointed Becky Hammon onto their coaching staff.

There will be a time when the hiring of female officials and coaches will be considered the norm. Soccer and tennis already have a lot of previous. Andy Murray’s decision to employ French coach Amelie Mauresmo last year reignited a whole new debate about men being coached by women.

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Sian Massey-Ellis, meanwhile, has been an assistant referee in the English Premier League since 2010. The San Antonio Spurs broke the trend recently when former USA international Becky Hammon was appointed onto the coaching staff in what was seen as a monumental move by the reigning champions. Yet in the NFL, one of the most macho, male-dominated sporting leagues of them all, the announcement that Sarah Thomas, a mother of three, will be a line judge starting next season has been seen as an encouraging and a radical step forward in the battle for gender equality. Thomas has been officiating for the last 20 years in high school and college football, ensuring her entrance into big time will be accompanied with a wealth of experience.

Shannon Eastin became the first woman to work a regular NFL season game during the 2012 referee lockout but Thomas, who will continue working as a representative for a pharmaceutical company, became the first woman to officiate an NCAA match in 2007. Two years later she was one of five female officials in major college football. Her recruitment by the NFL is a huge breakthrough, a much-needed feel good story in a close season which has already been blighted by enough sordid tales of misbehavior to last three lifetimes.

With domestic violence cases occurring with mind-numbing regularity, embracing women into the game is vital in the battle to claw back some integrity. Some players believe her promotion is a publicity stunt. You wouldn’t put anything past commissioner Roger Goodell, yet this can only be seen as a positive move, not a reactionary one. Certainly, the courage and conviction shown by the 41-year-old to follow her dreams should be commended and used as a template for women throughout the world.

“I’m a female, and I can’t change that. Just because I love the game of football and officiating, I do honour the fact that a lot of people consider me a trailblazer,” said Thomas. “But as far as being forced into a trailblazer role… I don’t feel that way. I’ve just been doing it truly because I love it.”

This appointment was no flash in the pan. The NFL have long been aware of Thomas’ expertise. She’s shadowed colleagues for the past two years during the off-season to ensure no stone was left unturned. “If you look at Sarah’s background and her journey to get here, this is not something that happened overnight. She’s been on our radar screen for eight-nine years,” NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said. The line of scrimmage will be her focus point so her speed and reactions need to be top notch. Thomas has already been receiving warm welcomes.

“Get these guys straightened out, get some gals in there,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after encountering the Mississippi native in a pre-season game last year. “She’s a good ref. So it was a good choice.’’ 

While the move by the Spurs in the NBA was heralded by the WNBA and its players, there is no such correlation in the NFL. That’s not to say the game is a closed shop for women. Far from it. Although Thomas will remain the only woman officiating next season, there are 15 more in the pipeline who will attempt to break through in the next couple of years. There will be tough moments. Sexism remains a problem in society which will not be eradica-ted with the promotion of women to the male dominated world of American football. No matter. Thomas is relishing setting out her stall. “I just say this, don’t go out to try to prove somebody wrong,” she added.

“Go and do things, whether you’re female or male, black or white, just do it because you believe in yourself and you know you’re there to do the job.” With more females working in the NCAA, how long will it be before the NFL coaching system’s glass ceiling is destroyed once and for all?

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First female referee in NFL

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Sarah Thomas has been officiating for the last 20 years in High school and college football.

There will be a time when the hiring of female officials and coaches will be considered the norm.

– Celtics set for NBA playoffs after huge win over Cavaliers
– Curry breaks own record for most 3-pointers in a season
– Miami Heat outscored by Chicago Bulls by 27 points

Soccer and tennis already have a lot of previous. Andy Murray’s decision to employ French coach Amelie Mauresmo last year reignited a whole new debate about men being coached by women. Sian Massey-Ellis, meanwhile, has been an assistant referee in the English Premier League since 2010.

The San Antonio Spurs broke the trend recently when former USA international Becky Hammon was appointed onto the coaching staff in what was seen as a monumental move by the reigning champions.

Yet in the NFL, one of the most macho, male-dominated sporting leagues of them all, the announcement that Sarah Thomas (below, right), a mother of three, will be a line judge starting next season has been seen as an encouraging and a radical step forward in the battle for gender equality.

Thomas has been officiating for the last 20 years in high school and college football, ensuring her entrance into big time will be accompanied with a wealth of experience.

Shannon Eastin became the first woman to work a regular NFL season game during the 2012 referee lockout but Thomas, who will continue working as a representative for a pharmaceutical company, became the first woman to officiate an NCAA match in 2007. Two years later she was one of five female officials in major college football.

Her recruitment by the NFL is a huge breakthrough, a much-needed feel good story in a close season which has already been blighted by enough sordid tales of misbehavior to last three lifetimes.

With domestic violence cases occurring with mind-numbing regularity, embracing women into the game is vital in the battle to claw back some integrity.

Some players believe her promotion is a publicity stunt. You wouldn’t put anything past commissioner Roger Goodell, yet this can only be seen as a positive move, not a reactionary one.

Certainly, the courage and conviction shown by the 41-year-old to follow her dreams should be commended and used as a template for women throughout the world.

“I’m a female, and I can’t change that. Just because I love the game of football and officiating, I do honour the fact that a lot of people consider me a trailblazer,” said Thomas.

“But as far as being forced into a trailblazer role… I don’t feel that way. I’ve just been doing it truly because I love it.”

Becky Hammon (l), pictured with Tony Parker, was appointed to the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff in the summer.

This appointment was no flash in the pan.  The NFL have long been aware of Thomas’ expertise. She’s shadowed colleagues for the past two years during the off-season to ensure no stone was left unturned.

“If you look at Sarah’s background and her journey to get here, this is not something that happened overnight. She’s been on our radar screen for eight-nine years,” NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said.

The line of scrimmage will be her focus point so her speed and reactions need to be top notch. Thomas has already been receiving warm welcomes.

“Get these guys straightened out, get some gals in there,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after encountering the Mississippi native in a pre-season game last year.

“She’s a good ref. So it was a good choice.’’

While the move by the Spurs in the NBA was heralded by the WNBA and its players, there is no such correlation in the NFL. That’s not to say the game is a closed shop for women.

Far from it. Although Thomas will remain the only woman officiating next season, there are 15 more in the pipeline who will attempt to break through in the next couple of years.

There will be tough moments. Sexism remains a problem in society which will not be eradica-ted with the promotion of women to the male dominated world of American football. No matter.

Thomas is relishing setting out her stall. “I just say this, don’t go out to try to prove somebody wrong,” she added.

“Go and do things, whether you’re female or male, black or white, just do it because you believe in yourself and you know you’re there to do the job.”

With more females working in the NCAA, how long will it be before the NFL coaching system’s glass ceiling is destroyed once and for all?

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Celtics thrash Cav's in NBA

Jay Asser 13/04/2015
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The Celtics' point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points off the bench.

The Boston Celtics all but secured their spot in the playoffs by beating the team they’re most likely to see in the first round with a 117-78 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night.

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Cleveland rested LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, but Boston, who have been in a fight for one of the final postseason spots in the Eastern Conference, didn’t relent.

After being behind 22-21 at the end of the first quarter, the Celtics turned up the intensity and obliterated the overmatched Cavaliers, outscoring them 96-56 the rest of the way.

Boston were smothering on defence and swiped 20 steals – just one shy of the franchise record. On the other end, seven Celtics scored in double figures as they shot 54.8 per cent from the field and 41.7 on 3-pointers.

Sixth man Isaiah Thomas was the high-scorer with 17 points and six assists off the bench, while playmaker Evan Turner filled up the stat sheet with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Boston entered the game with a hold on the seventh seed in the East and the victory, combined with the Brooklyn Nets’ loss, almost assures the Celtics a meeting with Cleveland in the opening series of the playoffs.

The win was also Boston’s second straight against the Cavaliers, who they defeated on Friday in a contest which James and Love played three quarters of, and which Irving sat out.

Elsewhere, Brooklyn were involved in their own blowout, but were on the wrong end of the 96-73 result against Milwaukee.

The Bucks used a second-half surge to pull away, outscoring the Nets 53-32 after the intermission to officially secure the sixth seed in the East.

The Bucks will return to the playoffs after suffering an NBA-worst 67 losses last year.

Brooklyn, meanwhile, still have to fend off the Indiana Pacers to reach the postseason.

Milwaukee’s defence gave the Nets all sorts of trouble as Brooklyn committed 21 turnovers and shot just 32.5 per cent, including 16.7 per cent from beyond the arc.

Forward Ersan Ilyasova led the way for the Bucks, notching a game-high 21 points to go with five rebounds. The Nets have two games left against Chicago and Orlando to extend their season.

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