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Earning her stripes in the NFL

  NFL referees at the coin toss for the 40  th   Pro Bowl. Will Sarah Thomas be joining them? Photograph by U.S. Navy Mate Don Bray.

NFL referees at the coin toss for the 40th Pro Bowl. Will Sarah Thomas be joining them? Photograph by U.S. Navy Mate Don Bray.

Kudos to Sarah Thomas, the first woman scheduled to become a full-time referee in the NFL. (Shannon Eastin worked as a replacement official in 2012 during the referee lockout.)

Thomas – a pharmaceutical executive and mother of three – has worked preseason games and the New Orleans Saints’ spring minicamp. Like most pioneers, she doesn’t see herself as one.

"I've always said as far as breaking the gender barrier, you never set out to do that,” she was quoted as saying in USA Today. 

Does the hire smack of tokenism? Of course, it does. The NFL has a terrible rep where women are concerned so it floods the field with pink during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And now it’s added a female official. Regardless of its motives, however, the league is still raising awareness.

And so will Thomas, who’ll have to earn those stripes she’ll wear.

My money is on her doing just that.