Two Black Women Referee An NBA Game And Remind Us That 'Representation Matters'

"Every barrier shattered is a step forward."

Earlier this week, two referees at an NBA Summer League game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat sparked an important conversation on Twitter. That's because both referees — Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren — were Black women.

Marc J. Spears, an NBA writer for ESPN's The Undefeated, tweeted an image of the two referees on Tuesday, pointing out that it was the "first time" he had ever seen two Black women referee an NBA game. He added his belief that Violet Palmer, the NBA's first female referee, "would be proud."

Some Twitter users wondered why the women's race was worth mentioning, and others responded to them by explaining that "representation matters" on the court. 

When someone suggested that everyone has an "equal chance" to referee a game, another user pointed out that this isn't actually the case. "We're *getting* there, and it's much better, but we're not there yet," they wrote.

User Tomas Kassahun summed things up well by reminding everyone that "there was a time in history where it was unimaginable for black people (especially women) to have these opportunities." He added, "Every barrier shattered is a step forward, is a cause for celebration."

Progress is certainly being made, as more and more women break barriers in sports. In 2015, for instance, the NFL hired its first full-time referee, Sarah Thomas, and its first female coach, Jen Welter of the Arizona Cardinals. The two even met before a game in a history-making moment.

However, women in sports still face sexism, and there is a long way to go before men and women are equally represented. The 2017 list of highest-paid athletes, for instance, didn't include a single woman. Meanwhile, many women in sports journalism are fighting back against sexual harassment as they face disappointing representation in newsrooms.

One Twitter user responded to the image of Scott and Suffren by suggesting it was time for the NBA to finally hire a female head coach. In 2014, Becky Hammon became the first assistant coach in NBA history, for the San Antonio Spurs. Earlier this year, LeBron James remarked that he would like to see more women coaching basketball, saying, "You know the game, you know the game."

Cover image: PhotoProCorp / Shutterstock.com

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