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7 beautiful female referees in the NBA

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female referees
Natalie Sago. Photo/CBS Sport
  • Women referees now make up 8% of the 75-member officiating crew in NBA matches
  • They are a product of the league’s efforts in empowering women
  • Violet Palmer was the first female official to compete at the top level of the WNBA

The sporting world is slowly adjusting to the reality of having women take up crucial positions in teams and clubs. And this gave rise to female referees in the NBA.

They are a product of the league’s efforts on employing the most qualified and diligent referees in the industry. These women now make up 8% of the 75-member officiating crew in NBA matches.

Over 16 years ago, there were only two women in the game, but this has now changed. Let’s take a dive and know who they are.


female referees

Violet Palmer. Photo/CNN

Violet Palmer was the first female official to compete at the top level of the WNBA. Now a retired WNBA player, the 59-year-old transitioned to a referee in the NBA and WNBA which she has performed diligently. She made history in female referees in the NBA in 2006 when she officiated the Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Nets which was an NBA playoff game.




Lauren Holtkamp recalls a subtle yet significant moment starting from her early days in refereeing NBA matches. Holtkamp has the longest-serving record in the NBA and she is praised and admired by many for her resolute nature. Many people see her as a role model and a mentor.

She gets satisfaction from tight working ties other NBA officials give her comfort. The officials.


female referees in the NBA

Jenna Schroeder. Photo/NBA .com

Jenna Schroeder never pictured herself as an NBA referee. She loved her high school job as an NBA coach but a bystander helped her visualize a career beyond this as one of the female referees in the NBA.  In her first NBA match with 40,000 fans, she did her thing and what followed was booing on the court.

It encouraged her instead and she has seen it before. So far, her years in the NBA as a referee have taught her the value of dedication and working with tight schedules. She feels the NBA is a completely new grind. Schroeder never forgets the inequalities in the NCAA, including pay disparities between men and women in the league.


female referees in the nba

Ashley Moyer-Gleich. Photo/

By being a player first, Ashley Moyer-Gleich, understands the highs and lows of basketball. This experience shaped her skills as an NBA referee who can handle everything that’s thrown to her. But, she had to take time and study the rule book to keep up with her other phase of life as an NBA player.

She uses her experience as a former WNBA player to explain some things as contained in the rule book that players do not understand.


female referees

Natalie Sago. Photo/CBS Sport

Isn’t it surprising that when growing up, Natalie Sago wasn’t much of a basketball fan? But, she spent much of her time going to all of her father’s games and competitions, who worked as a basketball official for high schools and colleges for more than 35 years.

In the years that followed though, she found herself at the heart of the WNBA and eventually to the NBA in a more pronounced role. Sago doesn’t regret her history among female referees in the NBA.


female referee


Born in Cleveland, Simone Jelks found her solace in a basketball court since she was a small girl. Her love for the game was and still is immeasurable. Jelks played basketball while in college and this gave her push through the WNBA and finally to the NBA as a referee. She worked hard to stand out in a position traditionally occupied by men.

“I feel like women, especially women in male-dominated industries, always in the back of our heads, there’s a little space, no matter how well we are doing, like ‘Am I good enough?’ and the answer will always be yes,” NBA quotes her.

Jelks believes in individual responsibility by coaches and players which at times passes for a woman referee who is too sensitive.


Daniel Scott had a great career in basketball transcending through the G League and later to the WNBA. She sharpened her court skills and she sees her time at WNBA as a learning curve.  Scott attributes her success among female referees in the NBA to her colleagues in the NBA who taught her the ropes of the job during her rookie year.

In addition, she has a great working relationship with teams and players which makes her work enjoyable.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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