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Female ref expects boos from NFL fans

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FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2013, file photo, NFL referee Sarah Thomas works the game in the second half of an NFL preseason football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Sarah Thomas is that much closer to taking the field as the NFL's first female official. She's part of a clinic for all refs with most training camps about two weeks away from opening. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

IRVING, Texas >> Sarah Thomas expects NFL fans to boo her, just like they do the other 121 game officials. It would mean a measure of acceptance for the league’s first full-time female official.

Thus, Thomas took no offense at Amy Trask’s recent comments.

Trask, the former Oakland Raiders executive, wrote a column for TheMMQB.com in which she said she hopes Thomas is booed: “When Sarah Thomas throws a flag she shouldn’t have thrown — which she will, as all officials do — she should be booed. When Sarah Thomas fails to throw a flag she should have — which she will, as all officials do — she should be booed. Sarah Thomas should be booed as loudly and as resoundingly as her male colleagues are booed. Gender equality means gender equality. And if gender equality is the expectation, all consequences that flow therefrom must be accepted, whether one likes them or not.”

A fellow official sent Thomas the column.

“I read it, and I thought what she said is exactly right,” Thomas said Friday during the NFL’s annual Officiating Clinic. “Being booed or however you want to say it, what she’s meaning is: I’m out there to do the job just like any other official. It just so happens I’m there as a woman. But if I’m going to mess up, the guys get booed, so I should get booed.”

Thomas, 41, became one of 10 first-year officials on April 2 when the NFL hired her as a line judge. Shannon Eastin became the first woman to work an NFL regular-season game in 2012 when she served as a replacement official during the NFL’s lockout of its officials.

Thomas was the first woman to officiate a major college football game and the first to work a bowl game. She spent the past two seasons in the NFL’s developmental program.

“We don’t want to bring an official in before she’s ready, and she’s been a part of our process and our program for a long time,” said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating. “She’s been officiating for 20 years, and she’s been on our radar since 2006.”

Thomas, a mother of three who played basketball at the University of Mobile, just wants to “blend in.” She still wears makeup, refusing to concede on that. Her long blonde hair is pulled underneath her hat when she’s on the field.

“I certainly wouldn’t want that attention,” said Aaron Santi, a first-year official who has worked three games and a minicamp with Thomas. “It’s going to be tougher for her. She’s going to be under the microscope a little more, because the reality is this is a really difficult job, and we all make mistakes. Hopefully, the fans and the public and the media will allow her to make mistakes and not treat her with a different standard than anyone else.”

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