A few years ago, Thomas was on the phone with her brother when he mentioned that he was going to try to become a referee. “Can girls do that?” she asked. Thomas took it upon herself to find the answer to her question and quickly realized that women can become referees, but not many women had tried.
Before long, Thomas made history by becoming the first full-time female official in the NFL, the first woman to officiate in a Big Ten stadium, the first woman to officiate a Bowl game, and the first woman to officiate a major college football game. Though her success did not come easily, Thomas is quick to point out that she never felt like her gender was in the way of her career.
In an interview with NFL AM, she spoke on the diversity in the NFL by saying, “Individually, we’re different – race, gender, you know, whatever our backgrounds are, but collectively, we’re one. We’re just striving for the same goal, to be the best official we can be anytime we’re given the opportunity to work… I think diversity is a good thing and the National Football League is doing that.”
She is a new spokesperson for Activia Probiotics Yogurt and their #ItStartsInside campaign, which is aimed toward having women believe in themselves and taking care of themselves enough to accomplish great things.
As the star of Activia’s new television commercial, Thomas says, “Where does it come from? Was it my refusal to accept that an NFL official was a man’s job? Was it to show my daughter that she can be anything that she wants to be? If I don’t believe in myself, who will? It does start on the inside.”
However, she understands that while it is on the inside that matters, she does not discredit that outwardly appearances make an impact, as well.
Thomas made headlines when she refused to take her boss’ advice to not wear any makeup while officiating. “They told me I needed to tuck my hair in, and I understand that is to blend in,” she said in an interview with ABC News. “But when Gerald told me that I needed to wear little or no makeup, I told him that he was crossing the line and that I was gonna wear makeup.”
Thomas is continuing to use her position to spread good and is inspiring women and other historically oppressed groups to follow their dreams, no matter how unprecedented they may be.
“Go and do things,” she said. “Whether you’re female or male, black or white, just do it because you believe in yourself and you know you’re there to do the job.”
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