Football Zebras exclusive
As the NFL concludes it’s season by having a majority minority officiating crew in Super Bowl LIV, XFL head of officiating Dean Blandino is opening doors in the creation of a diverse officiating roster for that league’s reboot in February. To that end, Blandino did something unprecedented: there will be one woman on each of the officiating crews. Blandino said in June 2019 that there was a “concerted effort” to create a diverse officiating staff in the XFL:
We’re trying to create more opportunities for female officials and minority officials. The XFL is going to be a showcase for officials all over the country to get more looks and potentially have the NFL look at them. So, we’re going to put together an inclusive [officiating] staff.
When the now-defunct Alliance of American Football took the field last year, they had 3 women officiating on the field; the XFL has doubled that. That means, no matter what XFL game you are watching this season, there will be a woman will be officiating on that field.
The six women working on XFL crews this spring are line judge Maia Chaka and side judge LaShell Nelson from Conference USA, line judge Robin DeLorenzo and center judge Amanda Sauer-Cook from the Big Ten officiating consortium, and field judge Sebrina Brunson and head line judge Tangela Mitchell from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Additionally, Terri Valenti, an NFL replay official, will be working the replay booth in the XFL.
Nelson has been in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program for four seasons, and in 2019, she officiated in the Canadian Football League as part of the interleague agreement between the NFL and CFL. Football Zebras profiled Sauer-Cook as she was the first openly gay official in a major professional football league. Mitchell was recently featured in the documentary short film Her Turf, about women who are succeeding in officiating, following their life on and off the field.
Sauer-Cook, DeLorenzo, and Chaka officiated for the Alliance of American Football last year. Brunson and Mitchell were part of the first majority-female officiating crew for an Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game in 2013 as part of the Division II conference.
The NFL hired line-of-scrimmage official Sarah Thomas in 2015. In the replay booth Valenti was added in 2018 and Yvonda Lewis in 2019. Certainly, there will be eyes on the XFL field this season. Certainly, there will be several XFL officials that get noticed by the NFL to fill vacancies next year. Definitely, the NFL will have more women to choose from.