Recently the NFL hired their first female referee to officiate during the up-coming season. Many are saying they did so as part of reputation management. The NFL has not had a great couple of years with multiple domestic violence issues and how they handled the crisis of confidence. I’m not a fan of how the league has handled it, but that’s for another post.
I have some knowledge about officiating in the NFL. To become an official in the NFL is not an easy path. It takes years of officiating pee-wee, high school, and college games to even be considered for a position on a crew in the NFL. Sarah Thompson has spent decades officiating honing her skills. Thompson has earn the right to wear the stripes on Sunday afternoon. Period.
Appointing a female referee is not going to solve the NFL’s reputation meltdown. Appointing a female referee should not be part of their reputation management program. And honestly, I do not think it is part of their reputation management program at all. It just would not make sense. Like with NASCAR, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of women running the back offices. Women are involved in sports and sport management at all levels. They just might not be as visible as people would like them to be.
The issue is more complex than PSAs and supporting domestic violence organizations. What the NFL needs to be doing for their reputation management is working towards cultural changes in regards to the overt aggression in football and the effects it has on the culture off the field. As the final destination for few and/or the aspiration for most football players, it has to start in the youth leagues.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, just a lot of questions. I will say hiring a female referee into the NFL is not part of reputation management. It is just hiring smartly.

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