Pioneers charge onto court

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

With 16 seasons of experience, Violet Palmer has become one of the NBA's veteran officials.

On this day in 1997, the NBA announced the hiring of Dee Kantner and Violet Palmer to its refereeing staff, marking the first time in major U.S. pro sports that women would officiate regular-season games in an all-male league. On Oct. 31, 1997, Palmer made her regular-season debut when she worked the season opener between the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks. Kantner made her debut on Nov. 5, 1997, in a game between Atlanta and Philadelphia. Kantner was fired by the NBA in 2002 and is now the supervisor of officials for the WNBA. Palmer, who became the first woman to referee an NBA playoff game in 2006, has worked more than 800 games -- and counting -- for the NBA.