First Woman Set to Ref NBA Playoff Game

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 21, 2006, 9:40 AM

April 21, 2006— -- Nine years after becoming one of the NBA's first female referees, Violet Palmer is set to break another barrier by becoming the first woman to officiate an NBA playoff game.

For Palmer, 33, working the playoffs is a goal she has been working toward for years.

"I wasn't sure I could reach it," Palmer said. "I knew I had the ability but this is the top of the pedestal for me."

Palmer made her NBA debut on Oct. 31, 1997 when she, along with Denise Kantner, became the first women to referee a regular season game for any all-male professional sports league. They officiated the season opener between the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks.

In the beginning, Palmer said, players and coaches openly questioned her competence, and some even objected to her presence outright. But over time, she has earned the respect of both her colleagues and the players.

"As the years went on, the players and coaches realized that I'm just one of the guys," Palmer said. "If you can do your job, you're going to earn the respect of the players and coaches."

Palmer's career includes eight years of officiating women's collegiate basketball, working in NBA summer league and pre-season games, refereeing WNBA games and playing as a starting point guard at Cal Poly Pomona, where she was part of the NCAA Division II women's championship teams in 1985 and 1986.