Shannon Eastin becomes first female NFL referee tonight

Shannon Eastin will be making her historic NFL debut tonight as a temporary replacement. That's because the league locked out its regular refs as part of an ongoing dispute over salary and retirement benefits.

Jeff Horwich: The NFL's preseason is underway. For the teams, this is warm-up time -- these games don't count. But when the Chargers and the Packers take the field tonight in San Diego they'll be part of football history: They'll be the first NFL teams to be refereed by a woman.

From KPBS in San Diego, here's Kyla Calvert.


Kyla Calvert: I'm not big football fan, but I will be keeping an eye on the Chargers-Packers game tonight watching for Shannon Eastin.

Eastin normally referees college football. She's making her historic NFL debut as a temporary replacement. That's because the league locked out its regular refs as part of an ongoing dispute over salary and retirement benefits.

Kevin Quinn is a sports economist. He says the league thinks it can fill in with temporary replacements while it holds out for a better deal.

Kevin Quinn: I think the NFL would be willing to take a chance that the average fan wouldn't even notice this. And really, from a public relations point of view, a lot of the discussion of who's right and who's wrong here will be drowned out by talk of the first female referee.

But Quinn says those hoping to see permanent female referees probably won't have to wait long.

Quinn: I think that's inevitable. Absolutely inevitable. Part of the reason why is because the NFL is consciously marketing to women.

So that a growing female fan base will keep buying all those pink football jerseys.

In San Diego, I'm Kyla Calvert for Marketplace.

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