Violet Palmer, who broke the gender barrier for NBA referees, retires from on court duties
It was a rough road for Violet Palmer, who along with Dee Kanter became the first female referees in NBA history back in 1997. It’s a hard enough adjustment for any official to jump to the NBA — no amount of refereeing NCAA games or any other level can prepare someone for the speed and challenges of the professional game.
But Palmer was an African-American woman entering the machismo-fueled world of male professional sports. Multiple players — including big names like Charles Barkley and Dennis Scott — questioned if a woman could and should referee a man’s game. Fans were worse spewing sexist and racist crap at her online and in person for years — all referees put up with some level of abuse from myopic fans, but Palmer got it far worse than others.
It turns out, she was good enough and officiated in the NBA for two decades, including getting to referee the 2014 All-Star Game. Players came around, including Barkley who publicly apologized to her.
But she is now stepping off the court, reports Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.
NBA referee Violet Palmer, who broke the gender barrier in 1997, has retired from on-court work. Now working as a manager in ref operations.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) September 22, 2016
Palmer, 52, had been battling knee issues and retired for health reasons. Palmer and Dee Kantner became first two female refs in 1997.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) September 22, 2016
This leaves Lauren Holtkamp as the only female referee in the NBA.
Congratulations to Palmer on a fantastic, barrier-breaking career as on official.