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NFL Hires First Full-Time Female Referee

The NFL made headlines on Friday with the announcement that Sarah Thomas has been hired as a full-time referee for the league.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The National Football League is known as the trailblazer of all of the professional sports leagues and prides itself on some of the progressive moves that they have made over the years. In that spirit, the NFL made headlines again this offseason.

According to multiple sources (seemingly first broken by Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun), the NFL has hired its first full-time female official. Sarah Thomas of Mississippi cut her teeth as a referee at the high school ranks, then had a career in pharmaceutical sales, per SI. By 2007, she was the first female referee to officiate a college bowl game while with Conference USA.

Thomas was part of a development program through the NFL and was officiating preseason games last season, per Sports Illustrated:

"I set out to do this and get involved in officiating not having any idea that there were not any females officiating football" she said. "Being a former basketball player, you saw female officiating all the time, so no I don’t feel like a pioneer."

The league previously had a female official during the referee lockout a couple of years ago, but she was not hired as a full-time official once the lockout ended.