ST. LOUIS – The NBA played its first game with a majority-female officiating crew on Monday, January 25.
Natalie Sago of Farmington, Missouri officiated the game that night between the Charlotte Hornets and the Orlando Magic with Jenna Schroeder and Sean Wright. Schroeder and Sago are two of the seven women that have ever officiated in the NBA.
Sago has been involved in basketball for all of her life, but strayed for a moment when she chose to play softball in college at Jefferson College and Drury University. She said this choice stemmed from her ability to be a utility player on the softball field, but after college she went right back to basketball.
“Basketball is truly my first love,” Sago said.
Her father, Shelton, refereed basketball for 35 years making Sago’s choice to start refereeing AAU basketball in 2012 an obvious one.
From there, she worked her way up. She officiated games for AAU, middle school, high school, college, NBA’s G League, WNBA and now she is in her third season with the NBA.
Sago got the call to officiate her first NBA game while she was sitting on a plane in Los Angeles waiting for it to take off to Salt Lake City.
“It was the hardest, longest flight of my life because I couldn’t call my parents. I couldn’t call my brother. I couldn’t call any of my family or friends so I had to wait, but it was really special because I just kind of sat there and I just soaked it all in,” Sago said.
She said she appreciates the NBA for supporting her and the other female NBA officials.
“It’s awesome to have the support of a company that it’s about your ability, it’s not about your gender, race, ethnicity,” Sago said.