Violet Palmer: NBA’s Only Female Referee

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  • Violet Palmer

    Place of Residence: A National Basketball Association arena near you or Los Angeles.

    Why She’s a Game Changer: Palmer is currently the only female referee in the NBA.

    Sometimes longevity under difficult circumstances deserves praise. Palmer became one of two women to infiltrate the all-male referee ranks of the NBA in 1997. Her fellow groundbreaking female referee left after five years, leaving Palmer to hold it down on her own for the last several years.

    “I didn’t just kick the door — I knocked it down,” Palmer told espnW.

    Palmer’s skill has also earned her the distinction of being the first woman to serve as a referee during the playoffs of any major American sport.

    The climb upward hasn’t been easy.

    Palmer spent nine years refereeing high school and women’s college games, including two NCAA Final Fours and the championships. The NBA took notice and recruited Palmer.

    “The NBA was never my goal, because I thought it was unattainable. I was a college referee. I was the No. 3 referee in the world for women’s basketball. I had everything. The Final Four. Big TV games — all the limelight I wanted. But my personality is if you give me a challenge, I’m going to take it. In the back of my mind, I said, It doesn’t cost me anything. I can just try it. If nothing happens, the training will be good.”

    But things were difficult at first.

    “Generally it was a good ‘ole boys club, and I think that’s within any sport. There were a lot of referees that resented me joining the ranks,” Palmer told PBS.

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