The Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) is home to 13 Historically Black Colleges located in the Southeastern part of the country including Norfolk State, Hampton, Howard and Florida A&M. The conference is known for having pioneered many things to do with athletic achievements amongst Black students, but now they have a new achievement to boast.
When the Green Bay Packers visit the San Diego Chargers in a preseason game this Thursday, MEAC referee, Shannon Eastin will take the field as the first female referee in the history of the National Football League. While she herself is not Black, Eastin certainly has been able to make moves within the MEAC Conference. In her four years with the conference, she had advanced all the way to crew chief and seemed to fit right in with the players and coaches despite being the only woman on the field. She is not afraid to make controversial calls and it appears she’ll fit in at the next level as well.
“Female, male, dog, cat, as long as they’re calling the right calls and they know what they’re doing out there, it really doesn’t matter,” Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley told FOXSportsWisconsin.com when asked about a woman officiating the upcoming game.
The NFL is involved in a labor dispute with the referees’ union and has locked them out so, they will be using replacement refs for now and the foreseeable future, opening the door for Eastin to make her debut. The last time replacement referees were used, they stuck around up through week one of the regular season. There is some concern with replacements calling games, but most players seem to think they’ll get through it.
“Let’s face it, some of the regular referees have some questionable calls,” Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “It’s going to happen, it’s human error, but hopefully with the replay and the refs up in the booth, if there is a mistake, hopefully it will get corrected.”
Meanwhile, the MEAC currently has more than 25 players on NFL rosters so not only may Eastin see some familiar faces, she is already accustomed to the talent-level she will encounter as she functions as the line judge in this historic game.
Eastin brings 16 years of collegiate experience to her crew and will be joined by other referees who have worked college and professional games, such as in the Arena Football League. She has also been a basketball ref in the Southland, Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conferences, but after her NFL stint, she’ll be back in the MEAC with some greater experience which can only make the conference better.
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EBONY.com Contributing Writer