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Natalie Simon breaks barriers by becoming the first Black woman to referee an MLS match

Natalie Simon is all smiles as she hopes to become a source of encouragement and inspiration for other Black girls through her achievements as a referee.

Natalie Simon breaks barriers by becoming the first Black woman to referee an MLS match
SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Referee Natalie Simon prior to a game between Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on September 16, 2023 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

African Americans have always had to fight for representation when it comes to mainstream sports. Black athletes have long been trying to push the envelope so that the next generation does not contend with the problems they had in sports. Magic Johnson recently made history by becoming the fourth Black owner of a team in the NFL and now coming in tow is Natalie Simon. Simon has broken through the glass ceiling by becoming the first Black woman to referee an MLS match, reports Pro Soccer Wire. Her first match took place on Saturday, between the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - AUGUST 21: Referee Natalie Simon (C) speaks with Katie Lund #23 of Racing Louisville FC and Laura Benkarth #1 of FC Bayern Munich before a penalty shootout during The Women’s Cup Championship Match at Lynn Family Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Image Source: Referee Natalie Simon (C) speaks with Katie Lund #23 of Racing Louisville FC and Laura Benkarth #1 of FC Bayern Munich before a penalty shootout during The Women’s Cup Championship Match at Lynn Family Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Professional Referee Organization announced it on Wednesday as part of the Week 32 announcements. According to the announcement, Simon would fulfill the duty of a head official in the match. Before this, Simon has enjoyed a prolific career as a referee. In the recent season, she has served as a fourth official in many MLS games. Along with this, she has also had the honor of being the head official of championship matches by NWSL and USL.

CARY, NC - JUNE 26: Morgan Weaver #22 of the Portland Thorns FC receives treatment from trainer Pierre Soubrier as referee Natalie Simon waits during a game between Portland Thorns FC and North Carolina Courage at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on June 26, 2021 in Cary, North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Image Source: Morgan Weaver #22 of the Portland Thorns FC receives treatment from trainer Pierre Soubrier as referee Natalie Simon waits during a game between Portland Thorns FC and North Carolina Courage at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on June 26, 2021, in Cary, North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Natalie Simon has been a trailblazer in her career as a referee. It is not the first time she is breaking barriers and achieving something so momentous. In 2022, Simon became one of the four American women to be bestowed the prestige of a FIFA international refereeing badge. It is the highest honor a referee can receive, and Simon is the first Black woman to achieve it, according to LA Times. FIFA also showed confidence in her by adding her to the international panel of match referees. She has built her career step by step, with last year being her breakthrough, as she took charge of her first U.S. women's national team match.

SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Referee Natalie Simon prior to a game between Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on September 16, 2023 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Image Source: Referee Natalie Simon prior to a game between Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on September 16, 2023, in San Jose, California. (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

Simon's performance in the match between the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake garnered appreciation from all corners. The match was intense till the end, with San Jose Earthquakes garnering the win with a 2-1 score against Real Salt Lake. The tenacity and passion shown by Simon ensure that she will continue to be working in the illustrious position and be a role model for fellow Black women trying to make it in this field.

SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Referee Natalie Simon warms up with assistant referee Logan Brown and assistant referee Ian McKay prior to a game between Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on September 16, 2023 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Image Source: Referee Natalie Simon warms up with assistant referee Logan Brown and assistant referee Ian McKay prior to a game between Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on September 16, 2023, in San Jose, California. (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

Simon, on her part, hopes that her achievement makes a significant impact. Being a Soccer player and aficionado from a young age, she had never seen someone look like her on the field. She said to the LA Times, "I was always the only Black person on every team I played on. I was always the token Black girl." While talking about her achievements and path to get here, Simon said, "I spent a lot of time wondering if I belonged. I spent most of my career questioning if I was good enough. I think a lot of Black people, especially Black women, can relate to that."

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 24: Referee Natalie Simon shows a yellow card to Diogo Pacheco #70 of Minnesota Utd 2 2 during a game between Minnesota Utd 2 and St Louis City 2 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium on April 24, 2022 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 24: Referee Natalie Simon shows a yellow card to Diogo Pacheco #70 of Minnesota Utd 2 2 during a game between Minnesota Utd 2 and St. Louis City 2 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium on April 24, 2022, in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Christina Unkel, a FIFA official of over 7 years, reflected on the importance of this achievement by saying: "I can't believe it's 2022 and you're first Black referee? Maybe I was ignorant. 'There's no glass ceilings because that's the American dream.' But until you see someone that looks like you, do you truly believe it or think 'Hey, you know, there are people that look like me that do that?' Seeing is believing and once people see that, people will then realize it was missing in the first place. Then there will be little girls or others."

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 24: Referee Natalie Simon during a game between Minnesota Utd 2 and St Louis City 2 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium on April 24, 2022 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Image Source: Referee Natalie Simon during a game between Minnesota Utd 2 and St Louis City 2 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium on April 24, 2022, in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Simon is willing to do everything she can to encourage little Black girls. "I carry that with me on the field," she said. "I carry the weight of that. Knowing that the decisions I make can impact what happens in the future for other Black women that are coming up behind me."

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