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Shannon Eastin, the first woman Division I referee & the first woman NFL official - author of LADY REF: Making Calls in a Man's World

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"You will never know how many times I said when asked about the lady ref, 'She is the best official on the field.'" -The late, legendary Red Cashion, NFL referee for 25 seasons and two Super Bowls

From a young age, Shannon Eastin was strong, fiercely competitive, and driven by the belief that she not only could but should be the best at whatever she set her mind to-including achieving her dream job: referee for the National Football League (NFL).

In LADY REF: Making Calls in a Man's World (Rowman & Littlefield; September 2023; ISBN: 978-1538181607; $34.00 Hardcover), Shannon Eastin takes readers along on her journey to becoming the first woman to work as an NFL official-after taking on a lot of training, putting in a lot of hard, hard work, learning when to speak up and when to step back, and keeping the faith that God had a plan for her. Throughout, she offers practical lessons and plenty of inspiration for anyone determined to follow their passion and reach their goals without compromising.

"I worked hard, I worked at getting better. And when one door wouldn't open, I kept looking for another way through," Eastin says of her quest to break into NFL. A door finally opened in 2012, thanks to a strike. Elated and grateful to be hired as a temporary replacement referee, she kept studying the game, following the rules, and working even harder to prove herself. "To get to this point," Eastin reflects, "I've had to take time to help others understand what I know, to see what I can do, and to trust me-and women like me-to do this work."

Before all of the accomplishments that were to be bestowed on Shannon Eastin, there came a powerful drive and a feeling she was born with something extra. You could say LADY REF began the day Shannon Eastin was born.

Then, in 1976 when Shannon turned six and her mom, who had been raising Shannon and her brother on her own until then, married Paul. In their new house in Oxford, Massachusetts, Shannon especially loved Sundays-when she and her dad would sit on the couch together, eating bowls of double-scooped ice cream and watching football. That year, the New England Patriots made it into the playoffs for the first time ever. And by focusing on how her dad paid close attention to the game and listening as he pointed to the screen and explained each play, call, and the official's signals, Shannon became fascinated with football. The following year, the family relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. Shannon burned to join a football team at their local rec center-but her mom said, "Absolutely not. It's too dangerous." Disappointed but not defeated, Shannon chose a different sport: judo. In third grade, she won her first of many judo championships. "Once I started a challenge, any challenge," she attests, "I didn't want to stop."

LADY REF follows Shannon Eastin through challenge after challenge, hurdle after hurdle, and hard-won triumphs, including:

· The thrill, in the spring of 2001, of receiving an e-mail from Johnny Grier, the first Black NFL referee ever named, inviting her to work the spring game at Florida A&S. (p. 84)

· Making herstory again in 2012-and fulfilling her dream of becoming the first woman referee for the NFL. Capping off the experience: being asked to commemorate her breakthrough for women by donating her hat and whistle to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. (p.150)

· How, as a young woman rebounding from an early failed marriage, Shannon set her sights on becoming a football official, enrolled in a training program and won the respect of men who knew and loved the sport by asking the right questions. (p.70)

· How she made the game-changing decision to enroll in the Personal Touch camp at UCLA, the best training available, and won the support and respect of the legendary Red Cashion-the official with the signature "first dooowwwwn" call-by demonstrating her impressive knowledge of the game and "good field presence," a sense of confidence under pressure. (p. 70)

· How she maintained her cool and professionalism in the face of sneers from her peers and during the aftermath of a humiliating physical assault in a hotel lobby-being forced over the back of a couch and smacked on the butt three times by her boss: a football commissioner. (pp. 75, 76)

· Coming back to the NFL the season after the referee strike was settled-as a game day assistant, working as a play clock operator, and then later being offered a position that was essentially a demotion. "It was time for me to step down, time for me to move on. (pp. 181, 182)

After leaving the NFL, Shannon Eastin became a clock operator for the Arizona Diamondbacks and fell in love with the game of baseball. She also enjoys raising money through the generous officials who work for her to send teddy bears to Phoenix Children's Hospital and throughout the U.S., an idea that was born to honor a dear friend's grandson, Aiden, who died of cancer just shy of his fourth birthday.

A memoir of a trailblazer, LADY REF is a story of determination and hope that will inspire anyone to keep on striving for their dreams and believing in their own worth.


SHANNON EASTIN broke barriers in becoming the first woman Division I referee and the first woman NFL official. She continues to inspire people through speaking engagements and through organizing and supporting charitable events. For years she has served as the director of officials for the Canyon Athletic Association and is the owner of SE Sports Officiating. Through both CAA and SE Sports, she assigns, trains, and mentors officials of all ages. She is a devoted member of Christ's Church of the Valley (CCV). She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her adorable and much-adored dogs, Cooper, Riley and Rosco. To learn more visit www.shannoneastin.com.


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