On Thursday, Shannon Eastin will get the opportunity to do what no woman has done before: officiate an NFL game.
The NFL has been scrambling for replacement officials ever since its regular officials were locked out due to a labor dispute in June.
Now, as the two sides bicker about the next collective bargaining agreement, Eastin will be part of the officiating crew on Thursday as the Green Bay Packers face the San Diego Chargers in exhibition play.
Eastin, an Arizona native, has officiated in several high school games and small college conferences throughout her career. Now she will serve as an historic figure for female officials on football's greatest stage.
Not everybody is happy about Eastin and her fellow replacement officials taking the stage, however.
Mike Pereira, former vice president of officiating for the NFL, has made his stance known during the labor dispute.
Pereira said in an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, via CBSSports.com:
"Now you're going to get a group of people out there with no experience [...] and you've got such a mix of people -- some with barely more than high school experience, you've got guys that have been out of the game for years, you've got guys that have officiated in the lingerie football league...you've got such a mix right now that it's not good for the game."
Pereira may have said "guys and gals" if he were interviewed now.
Eastin faces two challenges in Thursday's exhibition game. She faces an uphill battle as a replacement official with zero experience in a big league, and she must prove that the NFL is doing itself an injustice by not keeping female officials as regulars.
Eastin will likely be heavily scrutinized from the start as female officials try to eke their way into the league. She will have to be better than the guys because every little mistake will likely be magnified. Suddenly, she is not officiating at a high school or small college level; she plays a vital role for the emergence of female officials into the professional sport.
Thursday's exhibition game may be meaningless to some, but it means the world to Eastin and female officials everywhere.
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