Michigan woman helps break NBA officiating barrier

Women make up two-thirds of officiating crew in Hornets-Magic game as NBA finally has female officials break in

Local referee breaking barriers in the NBA

CLIO, Mich. – January 25 was a big night for the NBA.

The Charlotte Hornets played the Orlando Magic and for the first time ever two women officiated the same game.

Jenna Schroeder and Natalie Sago made up two-thirds of the officiating crew that night. Schroeder grew up in the Flint area playing basketball. She went on to play at Oakland University and Saginaw Valley State University.

She started refereeing when she was 17 to make some extra money, but now it’s her dream job and she’s breaking down barriers.

Schroeder began with third and fourth grade games in her hometown of Clio and it turned into a nice side job for the college student, but after graduation, it didn’t quite pay the bills, so she started bartending at Comerica Park’s Tiger Club.

“If I could work my butt off in summertime, I could really focus on refereeing in wintertime to work on my craft,” Schroeder said.

She did this for years and advanced to officiating Division I men’s games when a scout saw her work and she was invited to an NBA G-League tryout.

She didn’t get the job -- at least not that year. She came back the next year and was hired.

Schroeder spent three seasons in G League, then two seasons with the WNBA before switching to the NBA, where she became the sixth woman to referee in the league’s history.

She said some fans may give her a hard time, but she’s fully supported by the league and the players.

There are currently five full-time women as referees in the NBA and two others who are not on staff during this season. During the Hornets versus the Magic game, she was joined by referee Natalie Sago. It was the first time two women have ever officiated the same game.

Schroeder said women empowering women and supporting each other is how to break into male-dominated worlds. She knows a lot of young girls are watching her, especially her 2-year-old daughter, Brexton.

“I want my daughter to think her mom is strong enough to break barriers and do whatever she has to do,” Schroeder said.

Brexton has a lot of role models to look up to -- her other mom, Dr. Britta Anderson, is an associate team physician with the Detroit Tigers.

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About the Author:

Jamie anchors sports coverage on Local 4 News Saturdays at 6 & 11 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m., in addition to hosting Sports Final Edition.