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.
12 thoughts on “XFL breaks new ground by having a woman on every officiating crew”
This is GREAT news. For me the most disappointing thing about the failure of the AAF was losing their efforts to include more women. I already wanted the XFL to succeed so they compete with the NFL and pressure them to better themselves, but this is icing on the cake. Now they just have to make a go of it.
Seriously, why the pressing need for female officials?
Women do not play football. Football is strictly a man’s game. This feels like a publicity stunt.
I bet most men, and most true fans of the game, feel the same.
Stop with this gatekeeping nonsense.
Women do play football. Women do not currently play NFL football, although the rules do not prohibit it. Some women kickers have tried out (and there are legitimate safety reasons related to women’s smaller builds that might always prevent women from playing other positions alongside men). But women do play on amateur and semi-pro leagues around the world. No, that alone does not qualify them to be officials. Officiating skills qualify people to be officials.
History is full of women fighting to do things they’re as good at as men. Promoting qualified women in highly visible ways has broken down social barriers before and can do so again here.
For what it’s worth, this woman has been watching the NFL since I was 2. I’ve been a Bills fan since I got old enough to know that liking dolphins did not make it okay to be a Dolphins fan. That means I’ve been a Bills fan since the mid-80s. Go on, call me not a “true fan” again.
Karen, youâ€™re not wrong.
Some women do play football.
Some men wear dresses.
To each their own.
But, you do make an interesting point. Women can fight all they want – there are some things that they just canâ€™t do as well as men. And …That goes both ways. Ever seen a man give birth?
Oh, BTW, If you stayed a Bills fan for the past few decades – youâ€™re a fan and I would guess a true fan.
Thank you for the reply, Eric.
It appears you are arguing that football, and somehow by extension, officiating, is an inherently masculine activity and that therefore women can never be as good at it.
When I said women fought to do things, I didn’t mean they were fighting biology. They were fighting prejudice. Men used to say that women weren’t capable of highly intellectual occupations, like doctor, lawyer, or accountant. Women fought to do those things and today routinely excel at them. Men used to say that women couldn’t command effectively in the military. General Ann Dunwoody would beg to differ. Men used to say that women shouldn’t be on juries because they’d be too sypmathetic to the accused. Men used to say women’s uteruses would go flying out of their bodies on trains when they accelerated up to speed. Men used to say that women running marathons would cause infertility.
Your claim that women aren’t capable of officiating is wearyingly familiar.
Officials don’t have to be the fastest and the strongest humans on the planet. Physically fit women are well within the levels necessary to officiate. Men and women vary only slightly on various elements of cognition, and women are sometimes the slightly better ones. The differences between individual men or between individual women are much greater, with mentally sharp women again well above the level necessary for officials.
So what is it exactly that women can’t do as well as men that makes them unable to officiate as well as men? There aren’t entire organs vital to officiating like the reproductive organs men lack to give birth. What specifically do officials need that women lack?
@Karen – Or, conversely, the leagues could hire the best officials available, with merit being the sole criteria.
You know like the NFL drafts players … purely based on merit.
Yes, women can officiate football. Playing a sport and officiating a sport are two different things. I am a high school football referee and crew chief. Officiating has three basic components: Correct Position/Mechanics on the Field, Good judgement, and rules knowledge. I would add good physical conditioning too. Having experience playing the game is pretty far down the list actually. You want good officials on the field. Sex, race, doesn’t matter.
@steve- You are missing the point in a grand fashion.
The real goal for the NFL should be to hire the 20 best officials at every position.
@KIG — you’ll have the best 20 officials when everyone has the same opportunities to join the profession. Until then, you can get the best 20 men.
I get the whole “one woman per squad is suspicious, that’s an arbitrary goal” argument, but it has to start somewhere. If they went with fewer, it’d be called a publicity stunt (Ã la Sarah Thomas). There aren’t as many women as men with the necessary experience, so many more would be suspicious, too. The only way to get everyone over “football is for men, not women” is to put well qualified women in highly visible places to prove they can excel at the job at the top level.
Then everyone, boys and girls, will know that officiating is something they can do if they have the inclination and ability. The best will rise to the top.
And then, and only then, the NFL can hire the best officials at every position.
A few Quick football questions:
How many good NFL O- linemen weigh 200 lbs?
How many NFL d-backs run over a 5.0 40?
Should we put small lineman and slow d-backs into highly visible places to prove they can excel?
Asking for a friend.
@KIG — we are not discriminating against players when we prefer bigger linemen and faster d backs. Size and speed make them better at their jobs. If they were smaller and slower but had amazing moves and managed to somehow perform as well, then sure, hire them.
But that analogy does not fit here. Being male does not make officials better at their jobs.
@Karen- Okay, right.
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