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Woman referee could break NFL's gender barrier

If the NFL turns to replacement referees this season, it will open the door for a bit of league history.

Buried deep within Sam Farmer's Los Angeles Times report on referees and the NFL squabbling is news that one of the potential replacements is a woman.

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Her name is Shannon Eastin, and she has worked as a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and other leagues. According to the Times, the NFL never has had a woman work as an on-field game official.

Eastin was one of the replacement officials in Dallas on Friday to take part in the first training clinic. We learned from Farmer's report that officiating trainers -- a group of nine of the game's most respected former officials -- were asked to turn in their company-issued laptops after refusing to train Eastin and others.

"They wanted us to train the replacements, which we would absolutely not do," said Jerry Markbreit, one of the officiating trainers. "We were all officials for 20-plus years. ... How could we face our people? ... It's very discouraging for (the league) to have put us in this kind of situation."

The labor agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association lapsed June 3. Officials have been locked out since that date.

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