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Sarah Thomas to Receive Inspire Award


RACINE, Wis. — NFL down judge Sarah Thomas has been selected as the recipient of the 2024 NASO Inspire Award. The award will be presented in Atlanta on Tuesday, July 30, during the Celebrate Officiating Gala, sponsored by Fox 40 International. The Gala caps off the 2024 Sports Officiating Summit.

Sarah Thomas has been a pioneer, not only in the NFL, but for women across the officiating landscape. In 2009, she became the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game onfield and in 2015, Thomas became the first woman hired full-time to officiate onfield in the NFL. Following the 2018 season she became the NFL’s first onfield female official in playoff history. And on Feb. 7, 2021, Thomas became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl.

“I am completely honored and humbled to be the recipient of this year’s Inspire Award,” Thomas said. “To even be considered, and now in the company of the previous, incredible recipients, is a huge reason I will continue to inspire others. These previous recipients are inspiring me to continue their legacy in always being there for other sports officials across the globe. Thank you to NASO for all you do for all sports officials, and allowing me to receive this amazing award.”

Thomas was an academic all-American college basketball player and began her football officiating career in 1996. She was hired onto the Conference USA football officiating staff in 2006 and continued her rise to the NFL from there.

“Through her work and professionalism, Sarah Thomas has inspired countless officials to begin their journey,” NASO President Bill Topp said. “Among the most recognizable names in all officiating, Sarah has used her platform to open doors for others and support women and other underrepresented groups. National data shows an increase in the number of women officiating, though with much room for improvement. Leaders like Sarah Thomas show what is possible, regardless of level or sport. NASO is honored to recognize her with the 2024 Inspire Award.”



The NASO Inspire Award is presented to those, who by their actions, bring about inspiration, pride and a confirmation of the values cherished by the officiating community. Candidates can be those who are exemplary in their roles of training, educating and supporting sports officials. Candidates can also be those who, while not from within the officiating community, confirm the values of the highest ethical standard, integrity, fairness and impartiality.

Fox 40 International is the premier producer of officiating whistles. The complete line of Fox 40 products includes whistles for all uses, whistle attachments, Fox 40 gear, pro coaching boards, mouthguards and marine/outdoor products. Fox 40 continues to invest in new technology, designs and machinery, resulting in many new products being launched each year. Fox 40 has sponsored the Celebrate Officiating Gala for more than two decades.