Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

Being the First

Being the First

More From Violet

In this video

Palmer's career proves nothing is impossible, whether or not it's been done before.

Violet's Biography

Next Barrier to See Broken: Women coaches in the NBA.
Advice to Young Women: “I really believe that if you really enjoy what you’re doing it’s not work. I go to work every day and it’s not work for me.
Greatest Inspiration: Nelson Mandela. “To see someone preserve through such adversity and come out smiling and still wanting to treat people, people that have treated him so horribly, with love and respect, I think it’s admirable.”
Biggest Fans: Her mother and father never miss any of their children’s sporting events when they were young. Now, she makes sure her mother and father have a NBA League Pass on cable so they can still catch every game.

Violet Palmer broke a major glass ceiling in sports in 1997 when she became the first woman to officiate in the NBA, as well as the first female official in any major U.S. professional sport.  While her entrance into the league drew the rancor of several players and coaches, her performance and professionalism quickly won over even her most vitriolic opponents.  Fifteen years later, she’s a respected league veteran with a growing number of playoff games under her belt.  
Palmer grew up in a sports-loving family in the Compton section of Los Angeles.  Her basketball career began at Compton High, where she was a star point guard.  She attended Cal Poly Pomona on a sports scholarship and helped lead her team to two NCAA Division II national championships in 1985 and 1986.  After college, she worked as a recreation director for the city of Los Angeles and began refereeing on the side, starting with high school girls' games and working her way up to the NCAA women’s Division I.
 
Palmer spent nine seasons as one of the top women’s collegiate basketball officials.  She officiated five NCAA Women's Final Fours and two Women's National Championship games during her tenure.  She was recruited to the NBA’s referee training program in 1995 and began officiating NBA pre-season and exhibition games before getting her first shot the regular season in 1997.  In 2006, she became the first woman to officiate an NBA playoff game, an assignment reserved for the top-performing referees, and in 2009, she officiated in the NBA finals.

Related Videos

Muriel Siebert
Muriel Siebert
First Lady of Wall Street

Muriel Siebert was the founder and president of the nationally renowned stock brokerage firm Muriel Siebert & Co. In 1967, she became the first woman to own a seat on the New Y...

Bonnie Schaefer
Bonnie Schaefer
CEO & Philanthropist

Bonnie Schaefer is the former co-CEO and co-Chairman of the Board of Claire’s Stores, Inc., the leading international costume jewelry and accessories retailer for tweens, tee...

Donna de Varona
Donna de Varona
Olympic Champion & Sportscaster

At 14 years of age, Donna de Varona was the youngest swimmer to compete at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Four years later at the 1964 Tokyo games, she won two gold medals, setting an O...

Aileen Hernandez
Aileen Hernandez
Former President National Organization for Women

Aileen Clarke Hernandez has been fighting against discrimination in all of its forms for over six decades. She has been President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Comm...