The NBA has had female referees since 1997, but in the 24 years since then, none of them have ever worked together on the same crew. That will change on Monday night, January 25, 2021.
For the first time in NBA history, two women will work on the same officiating crew. Natalie Sago and Jenna Schroeder will be working the game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Orlando Magic on Monday.
NBA referees Natalie Sago and Jenna Schroeder will be part of the officiating crew, along with Sean Wright, for tonight’s game between the Hornets and Magic in Orlando. This marks the first time that two female referees will officiate the same NBA game. pic.twitter.com/d1S8K9sAnK
— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) January 25, 2021
Until recently, there weren’t enough female referees for it to be even remotely likely.
There have been just seven full-time female officials in the history of the NBA. Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner became the NBA’s first full-time female referees in 1997, and Kantner made more history in 2002 when she became the first female referee to be fired by the NBA. For the next 12 years, Palmer would be the only woman refereeing full time in the NBA.
The NBA didn’t welcome another full-time female official until the 2014-2015 season. Lauren Holtkamp-Sterling was promoted after five years refereeing in the NBA G League, and she and Palmer would be the only two women officials until Palmer retired before the 2016-17 season.
The NBA has been more aggressive about promoting women in the past several years. Since 2018, the number has quintupled. Two years after Palmer’s retirement, the NBA promoted Ashley Moyer-Gleich and Sago to full-time status. They were followed by Schroeder in 2019, and Simone Jelks in 2020. Five of the seven all-time female officials are currently working in the NBA.