Bonner, Burns, and Reneau Create History as the First Female Referees at the Men’s World Cup
The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 is witnessing a historic moment as Amy Bonner, Blanca Burns, and Jenna Reneau have achieved the remarkable feat of becoming the first women referees to officiate games at a men’s World Cup.
In today’s world, it’s not uncommon to see women referees officiating men’s games in various leagues around the globe. However, this trio is breaking new ground and making history.
“I feel deeply honored and blessed to be part of the World Cup,” said Reneau, who has been calling games in Jakarta. “Sharing this milestone with Amy Bonner and Blanca Burns is truly amazing, and I’m delighted to know that many more women will join us in the future.”
Burns, who is officiating games in Okinawa, shared her feelings, saying, “I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. To be honest, I have been focusing on taking it one day at a time.”
Bonner, who is calling games in Okinawa, expressed her gratitude, saying, “Being here has made all the years of hard work, challenges, victories, losses, ups, and downs worthwhile.”
With 18 years of FIBA experience, Bonner acknowledged the efforts of those who paved the way for them, saying, “Many unsung heroes started this journey years ago to ensure we have this opportunity today. The greatest pressure I feel at this stage in my career is to perform at my best so that these doors stay open, and everyone recognizes women as competent, confident referees capable of officiating at any level.”
None of the three referees believe that their gender has affected the way players and coaches interact with them.
“Players and coaches simply want a fair and accurate game. I don’t think they care at all whether it’s a man or a woman making the calls,” said Bonner.
Reneau, who has four years of FIBA experience, did share a memorable experience related to her gender, saying, “The only comment I received about my gender was from a player who acknowledged that I was the first woman to officiate his game. He expressed that it was an honor and congratulated me on being there. That was a remarkable moment.”
Carl Jungebrand, head of refereeing at FIBA, explained the rigorous process of selecting referees for the World Cup, saying, “All referees at the World Cup were chosen after a year of scouting and preparation. The main focus was to have the best referees, nothing more, nothing less. Amy, Jenna, and Blanca meet that criterion every day.”
Bonner, Burns, and Reneau all hope to serve as role models and inspire other women to follow their dreams.
“I want to encourage young girls to discover their passion and chase their dreams, no matter how big they are. If there’s no clear path, create one. Put in the effort, understand that it won’t always be easy, but don’t be discouraged by setbacks,” said Bonner.
“If you aspire to become a referee, don’t let anything hold you back. Believe in yourself, and I’ll believe in you too. I know it’s achievable,” added Burns, who has two years of FIBA experience.
Reneau shared her excitement, saying, “I am thrilled to witness the next generation of female officials at work, and I’ll be cheering them on.”
As fans from around the world continue to support the World Cup, they will now do so with the presence of women referees on the grand stage.