OTR Interviews

Sarah Thomas: First full-time female NFL game official blazes trail on gridiron

Sarah Thomas, the NFL's first full-time female official, tells Greta what it's like to make history. #SarahThomas

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 8, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, the interview you will only see right here ON THE RECORD. Today, the NFL naming its first female full-time game official. She is Sarah Thomas. We spoke with Sarah at NFL headquarters a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Sarah, nice to meet you. And congratulations.

SARAH THOMAS, NFL GAME OFFICIAL: Thank you so much. Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's exciting, isn't it?

THOMAS: It is. It's an honor.

VAN SUSTEREN: As a full disclosure, I'm an owner of a football team. One share, Green Bay Packers, $200. Completely worthless, but nonetheless, I get bragging rights. I get to say I'm an owner.

THOMAS: Do we need to stop this interview right now or keep going?

VAN SUSTEREN: We can keep going. We can keep going.

(LAUGHTER)

Anyway, so why do you want to do this?

THOMAS: You know, when I started this almost 20 years ago, I had no idea the opportunity that possibly one day I could be in the NFL. When I attended that first meeting with my brother, I was just intrigued that officials actually got together and discussed rules and took pride in the work that they were doing. And so not being involved in any kind of organized sport at the time I thought I may try this. And then I just got bit by the bug and it became infectious and here I am.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did they ask you if you have a team going into it because I mean I assume that if I were so fortunate to be chosen - I know I'm not going to be -- but they wouldn't put me on like a Packer Bear game because we know who wins that game.

THOMAS: I'm sure they have done all that research prior to us being hired, but yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't have the problem where your team -- you are officiating for your team.

THOMAS: It's funny. When you become a football official I know as kids you grow up and you have a favorite basketball team or favorite football team, but when you become a football official, you truly are focusing on the officials and hope that they do a good job.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know what part of the officiating you will actually be doing?

THOMAS: Yeah. I'm assuming I'm going to go in as a line judge.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is a line judge?

THOMAS: Well, it's the line of scrimmage. There's the headlines men and the line judge we control everything that happens on the line of scrimmage.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does that mean you will declare whether first down or not?

THOMAS: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you actually do that?

THOMAS: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: I should know this because as an owner I should know he this but I'm so busy watching the ball and players and I'm going to pay more attention to the officials. How many line judges are there?

THOMAS: There is just one line judge.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, so you're the only one. You're going to be making this one.

THOMAS: The line judge and headlines men, we're responsible for the line to gain or first down.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anybody have any trouble because you are a woman out there officiating -- I mean do they do double takes or what -- tell me about this?

THOMAS: Well, when I first got in, it was -- there was a guy that I was walking out of the tunnel with in college, Chris Cockrell, and he grabbed my hand and he said, "Do you realize what you are about to do?" And I said, "Yes. I'm going to go work a football game." And so, we were around the guys and they heard me talk and you would see them turn around and go, "That's a girl." But being involved as long as I have been involved, they just really want you to do the job, male or female, whatever it is, they just want you to do the job and do it consistently right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have seen a lot of really rotten sexist stuff. And they always when a woman, you know, breaks that glass ceiling all of a sudden we hear -- we see all nasty tweets and texts and everything else. I mean there's -- I mean you're already getting hit with a lot of this stuff.

THOMAS: I'm not on social media. So I try to focus truly on the things I can control and just stay in with positive people and surrounding myself with great football officials and mentors and my family and just the support I have.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know other women officials?

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: So we're going to see -- so you are the trailblazer but we will be seeing more soon?

THOMAS: I hope so and I hope that regardless if it's a female or a male, you know, that the best officials are recognized for their talent and what they do on the field.

VAN SUSTEREN: You have thought about Lambeau field in December with -- I mean that's open --

THOMAS: Cold.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's cold but there is no roof over that one.

THOMAS: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you ready for that?

THOMAS: Sure. Absolutely --

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean with your southern accent, you can really -- you're ready for that?

THOMAS: Yes, I am. I am very much so. If it's with the National Football League you send me, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Look. It's going to be a big deal when you get out there the first -- the opening game. I assumed you do a preseason game, but I think we are all waiting for opening day, the first game.

THOMAS: Yeah. It's going to be a big deal and it's going to be fun.

VAN SUSTEREN: Actually it's a long time and coming, isn't it, when you think about it?

THOMAS: Well, you know, it's -- when you think about it 2015 and that there is still gender barriers to be broken or racial barriers to be broken, you do -- you sit back and you think wow, but when I started this, that's not why I started, you know. It was just -- I'm just doing something because I love it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you love football so much?

THOMAS: It's such a challenge. And, gosh, it's just a great sport.

VAN SUSTEREN: I imagine the players are pretty nice to the referees or the officials on the field, are they?

THOMAS: They can be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Because I mean the last person I would want to alienate.

THOMAS: Yeah. They -- it's a profession. I mean it's their livelihood. They're passionate about it and I get it -- being a former athlete I get it.

VAN SUSTEREN: But there is trash talk among athletes a little bit. I mean trying to intimidate the other person on the field and we don't hear that but someone might just sort of -- maybe to try to scare someone or something. But did they ever say anything nasty to the officials?

THOMAS: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: They are not that stupid, right?

THOMAS: Well, I don't know about. That is just -- like I say, it's just a profession. I mean they may question call and you just answer them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think -- I mean, you obviously love the sport. I mean really it's a huge operation. It's a huge money maker and it consumes everybody in this country. What is it?

THOMAS: I think it's just if you're involved in sports -- and even women, you know, I just had a lady who told me she said she has never watched football but because I'm going to be officiating she is now going to watch football and the National Football League. I think it's just as far as a fan base. It's just a great sporting event.

VAN SUSTEREN: I appreciate you talking to us and this is exciting and it's fun for women, fun for men, too. Men like to see the glass ceiling broken. And you know, I wish you all the best of luck and I hope you will talk to us after the first game.

THOMAS: If they will allow me to, absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: Good. We will come and talk to you and see how you like it.

THOMAS: OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you.

THOMAS: It's my pleasure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)