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Shannon Eastin, female official, will make NFL history

Shannon Eastin will become the first female official in NFL history Thursday night, when she serves as the line judge for the Green Bay Packers-San Diego Chargers preseason game.

Things start to get murky once those initial facts and milestones are out of the way. Who Eastin is, or really, what she represents, is a matter of debate.

Gender trailblazer? Union scab? NFL gimmick?

Eastin, a 42-year-old Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference referee with 16 years of experience, probably didn't expect all this attention. She seems to be handling it well so far.

"I want to encourage women: Don't be afraid," Eastin said on a conference call Tuesday, via The Associated Press. "Pursue and have dreams. This is my dream. With every step, I hope to show it really doesn't matter if you are male or female."

She calls working in the NFL her dream, despite others in her profession looking down at her for taking the job during a union dispute.

"Hopefully there is some understanding on their part (that) I have got to do what's in the best interest of myself," Eastin said, "just as they have to do what is in their best interest."

One person not bothered by Eastin working the game is Packers defensive back Charles Woodson.

"It's probably about time," Woodson said about the NFL having a female official. "I'm sure women have probably tried at some point along the way leading up to this point, so I would assume it's somebody qualified out there that we won't have to jump over for making bad calls. ... So hats off to her and whoever decided to make it happen.

"It may take some people by surprise, but I think once the game starts flowing, the only way you're going to notice her is if she makes a bad call."

There were plenty of those in Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game, and the first full week of preseason action will be heavily scrutinized. Eastin is under the magnifying glass more than anyone: The Packers-Chargers game will be nationally televised.

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