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

Tiffany Shlain
Tiffany Shlain
Filmmaker

Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain is one of Newsweek’s “women shaping the 21st century,” and is on NPR’s list of Best Commenc...

Byllye Avery
Byllye Avery
Women's Health Advocate

For more than 30 years, Byllye Avery has been a health care activist dedicated to bettering the welfare of low-income African American women through self-help groups and advocacy n...

Ellen Gustafson
Ellen Gustafson
Food System Activist

Ellen Gustafson is committed to revolutionizing the global food system. She is the Founder and Director of the 30 Project, a think-and-do tank bringing together key organizations a...

Ai-jen Poo
Ai-jen Poo
Domestic Worker Advocate

Ai-jen Poo is currently the Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance – an organization that works to empower and organize domestic workers across 19 cities and 11 ...