The eye-opening and inspiring memoir of Shannon Eastin, the first female official for the NFL
Shannon Eastin was used to breaking new ground. As a teenager, she was a six-time national judo champion before women were allowed to compete in her sport in the Olympics. Years later, she became the first female Division I football referee. But when she set her sights on officiating in the NFL, nothing could fully prepare her for the obstacles that would be thrown in her way.
In Lady Ref: Making Calls in a Man’s World, Eastin candidly shares the struggles she faced throughout her journey to the pros. Dealing with sexual harassment, apparent sabotage, and blatant misogyny, there were times Eastin wondered if it was worth it, if perhaps it would be better to quit. But a return to her faith would ultimately help her hold onto her dreams, and when the full-time NFL officials were locked out, Eastin found her opening into the pros.
Eastin’s cap and whistle now rest in the NFL Hall of Fame, a testament to the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that went into her groundbreaking rise up the officiating ranks. Her eye-opening story reflects the relentless battles women have fought—and continue to fight—working in fields often perceived as a man’s domain, while also celebrating those who have supported these trailblazers in their journeys.
Shannon Eastin is the first female official of the National Football League (NFL) and the first woman to lead a crew at the Division 1 level for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. For 16 years she officiated football games at the high school and college level before making her mark on NFL fields. Eastin is the Director of Officials for the Canyon Athletic Association, where she oversees officiating services for over 200 schools. She mentors and trains officials in football and basketball through her company, SE Sports Officiating. Through her business she assigns officials for a variety of sports at various levels.
Kate St. Vincent Vogl is the author of Lost & Found: A Memoir of Mothers and the co-author of Iron Horse Cowgirls: Louise Scherbyn and the Women Motorcyclists of the 1930s and 1940s. Her work appears in Prairie Schooner and in best-selling anthologies like Why We Ride. Her fiction has received support from the Minnesota State Arts Board as well as from the Anderson Center. Vogl teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
2. Early Promise
3. A Strict Regimen
6. The Playbook
8. The Kickoff
9. The Opening Drive
10. Red Zone
11. Illegal Use of the Hands
12. Delay of Game
13. Odds on Favorite
15. Personal Foul
16. Charged Time Out
17. Integrity of the Game
18. Unsportsmanlike Conduct
19. My Lucky Charm
20. Making Herstory
21 Living the Dream
22. Game Changers
23. Replay the Down
24. The Final Whistle
About the Authors
In 2012, Eastin became the first woman to officiate on an NFL field, which she describes as “the honor of a lifetime.” She seems to give short shrift to the fact that she landed the temporary job as a line judge because the regular referees couldn’t work during a labor-dispute lockout. She shares her love for the New England Patriots, her dogs, judo (the sport of her youth), and God, and feels hurt by criticism of replacement referees. The next season, the NFL offered her a spot as a game-day assistant, working the play clock. In what seems like an understatement, she writes, “There were still mixed feelings from some officials toward those of us who had worked during the lockout.” Eastin does acknowledge Sarah Thomas, who, in 2015, becomes the first full-time female NFL ref, stating, “I’m glad for her and glad to have paved the way for her and others.” This is an interesting first-person account, written with a skilled coauthor, by a talented, complicated woman and sports figure.
I was instantly engaged in Shannon Eastin’s provocative and very personal journey to becoming the first female to officiate in the NFL. Her story is equal parts inspiring and maddening—for the constant gender inequity she faced in what remains to this day a male-dominated profession. I found myself rooting for her as she stayed the course and achieved her incredible dream with competence, grace, and professionalism!
Shannon does an incredible job telling the story of becoming the first female on-field official in NFL history. But, this book is more than just that story. She takes a candid look at how athletics were an important part of her life growing up, and how her parents and faith shaped her into the person who she was then and is now. She discusses rising up through the officiating ranks and the struggles she faced along the way and also after her milestone achievement. She is also open about her personal life and relationships. This book is a must read!
A great read for all! Many women were not willing to go through what Shannon did and for that I admire the fight she has always had, rising her to the top. This story will inspire you to never give up!
6/18/23, USA Today: Shannon Eastin discusses the discrimination and challenges she’s faced as an official. The forthcoming release of the book is highlighted and called “remarkable.”
8/9/23, Scottsdale Independent: Shannon Eastin is interviewed about the book.
9/11/23, Sports Business Journal: This is highlighted in a roundup of football books as the new season kicks off.