Shannon Eastin will become the first woman to be part of an NFL officiating crew when the Chargers host the Packers this Thursday night. Chargers' players reacted with enthusiasm as they heard the news.
“That's awesome,” C Nick Hardwick said. “Cool! Obviously that is historic and it is historic in a fantastic way.”
FB Jacob Hester shared Hardwick's excitement and pointed out women have made huge contributions to the NFL. “Shoot, why not, they can do it,” Hester said. “[Women] have advanced so much with reporting and they do a great job with that, so why not let them try it. I think it will be good. It will be interesting and it will be fun.”
K Nate Kaeding believes Eastin could help grow the NFL's female fan base. “I think it is great,” Kaeding said. “It's obviously a male dominated sport. But we talk about the statistics in our PR meeting every year. What the fan base is comprised of and women continue to grow over the years. If [woman officials] are another thing that brings more women into the game, by having more women involved on the field, then it is great. If she is a good official, then it is good for the game.”
The player's only real concern about Eastin is not that she is a woman, but that she is a replacement referee. The NFL's union officials are currently locked out because of a contract dispute. “Of course [I'm concerned] because the refs we have now miss calls,” OLB Shaun Phillips said last Friday. “We get some guys out there who are new; of course they are going to miss some calls. But at the end of the day the game should not come down to a referee.”
Hester pointed out that players will always have issues with some of the calls made by any official, but the ability to correctly officiate a game has nothing to do with an official's gender. “We are not going to like every call no matter who is out there,” Hester said. “That is just how any sport is, you are going to question a call. As long as they get it right more than they get it wrong, it does not matter if it is a man or a woman.”
Hester followed up by stating his support of Eastin officiating Thursday's game. “That is kind of great that we are playing in the game that it is going to happen.”