By Yetnaleci Maya, May 3, 2022
CPP alumna Violet Palmer is being honored at this year’s commencement ceremony with the honorary doctorate award. The award is given to alumni who the university committee believes deserve to be honored for their accomplishments post-graduation.
Palmer graduated in 1986 with a degree in recreational administration, hoping to pursue a career that still aligned with her love for sports. During her time as a Bronco, she took home two NCAA Division II National Championships as the starting point guard both years. On Oct. 31, 1997, she officiated her first NBA game, becoming the first woman in history to do so.
“I fell in love with getting my uniform, getting my rulebooks, learning court coverage, learning the rules,” said Palmer. “I was like a kid in the candy store, and it hasn’t stopped from that day until right now. I am still officiating. I never would have thought that I would be able to officiate for my livelihood but that’s what happened to me.”
Growing up, Palmer’s parents encouraged her to explore any passions that she had outside of school as long as she maintained good grades. Her first introduction to basketball was through her older, Rod Palmer, who she would play with alongside other boys in her neighborhood.
Palmer describes both her parents as her biggest inspiration and motivation. They pushed for her and her siblings to follow their dreams but to also work hard for what they wanted.
During her last year of high school, it had become clear to her that she wanted to pursue a collegiate basketball career. Palmer’s and Darlene May’s, the CPP women’s former basketball coach, paths aligned when May was visiting Palmer’s school, Compton High School, looking to recruit one of her teammates. Upon meeting, Palmer expressed she was certain she wanted to play for May.
“She, in a sense, reminded me of my parents, because she was so strong and strict but loving and caring and fun,” said Palmer of May. “She treated all her athletes with the utmost respect, kindness, love and just pretty much wanted us to be the best we could be.”
As Palmer recalled first telling May about her opportunity to referee in the NBA, her former college coach was certain she would excel in the process.
“She gave me those great words of encouragement, and she told me to just keep doing what I was doing and that the sky’s the limit,” Palmer explained. “She said that whatever I set out to do, I would do it.”
Palmer first began to referee for intramural sports on campus. During her last year of college, she began working with recreational sports as a scorekeeper in the city of Placentia.
While working with recreational sports, she joined in as a substitute referee for a game. To her surprise, the supervisor who assigned the referees in the city of Placentia was there to watch her. He suggested that she should get more involved in refereeing. But seeing as how she still needed to graduate, she put the idea on pause.
Shortly after graduation, she moved back to Los Angeles. But keeping her supervisor’s suggestion in mind, she joined her high school’s basketball refereeing association and began her career.
Palmer described her first NBA game as nerve wracking but the kind of experience you never forget. Being the first woman to referee in the NBA continued to motivate her to be on top of her game.
“When you’re confident and you have done the work to get to that level of refereeing in the NBA, now it’s just time to earn your stripes,” expressed Palmer.
Refereeing was her way of staying connected to the game of basketball. Palmer credits the people in her path who allowed her to dream but also taught her the importance of a good work ethic.
Now she continues to mentor young referees in their professional paths as a way of honoring the people who helped her.
“I think you just have to know that you’re going to have to work at it and have the confidence to go out there and just try,” she advised. “Whatever it is you have that you have a passion for, give it 150% and let the chips fall where they may.”
Featured image courtesy of NBAE via Getty Images.
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