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Female line judge makes NFL history

Eastin first woman to work regular-season game

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DETROIT -- Shannon Eastin has made NFL history.

Eastin was the line judge in Sunday's St. Louis Rams-Detroit Lions game, making her the first woman to be an official in a regular-season game.

She is among the replacement officials hired by the league while the regular officials are locked out. Replacement officials are working games for the first time in 11 years.

The only time her pony tail could be seen was during the national anthem, after which she tucked it under her cap and got ready to work.

Eastin became the first female official to work an NFL preseason game last month as the line judge when Green Bay played at San Diego. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has the hat and whistle she used during that preseason game, and they'll be displayed in Canton, Ohio.

The 42-year-old resident of Tempe, Ariz. has worked as a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference -- college football's second-highest level -- and has 16 years of officiating experience. MEAC officials declined comment on Eastin, as did the NFL in the days leading up to the groundbreaking assignment.

"Commenting on individual officials is not something we do," league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email. "Her place in league history speaks for itself."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said having Eastin on the field is a great opportunity for her and the league.

"She's well prepared for it, and I think she'll do terrific," Goodell said last month. "So we're excited about that.

"And there are more coming, by the way. We've been working along this path to try to properly train and prepare a female official, and now we have the opportunity."

The NFL declined to make Eastin available for interviews during the week leading up to the game and didn't plan to allow media to have access to her following the Rams-Lions game.

"I hope to show it really doesn't matter if you are male or female," Eastin said last month.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Larry Foote believes it is good for the game to have female officials, even though he worries about her safety working alongside some of the world's biggest, strongest and fastest athletes.

"Women are more honest and fair than men and they know how to catch a man cheating," Foote said. "I hope she's just a line judge. Don't want her to get hurt."

Eastin was a multiple national judo champion as a child and started officiating high school games before moving up to colleges.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2012 D4

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