When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams took the field on Monday Night Football, it was the first time in league history that an all-black officiating crew called an NFL game together. The matchup also featured a Buccaneers team that has three Black coordinators. Black excellence was on full display for everyone to witness.
Jerome Boger, a 17-year veteran NFL official, led the seven-person officiating crew comprised of:
- Barry Anderson – Umpire – 14-year NFL official
- Anthony Jeffries – Side Judge – 3-year NFL official
- Carl Johnson – Line Judge – 17-year NFL official
- Julian Mapp – Down Judge – 12-year NFL official
- Dale Shaw – Field Judge – 8-year NFL official
- Greg Steed – Back Judge – 18-year NFL official
“This historic Week 11 crew is a testament to the countless and immeasurable contributions of Black officials to the game, their exemplary performance, and to the power of inclusion that is the hallmark of this great game,” said Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
Five of the officials work together regularly, with Anderson, Mapp, Shaw, and Jeffries part of Boger’s crew. Johnson and Steed were brought in from other officiating crews to join the group for Monday Night Football.
Boger became just the third Black referee in NFL history when he was promoted from his position as line judge in 2006, with Johnny Grier being the first at the start of the 1988 NFL season.
“I am proud of my heritage and excited about my participation in this historic game,” Boger said. “The opportunity to work with a great group of Black officials and exhibit our proficiency in executing our assignment is something I am really looking forward to.”
If there’s one place the NFL has made progress with hiring minority talent, it is within the ranks of officiating. Four of the league’s 17 officiating crews are led by Black referees, which is a higher percentage than NFL coaches or general managers.
The NFL hired its first Black official, Burl Tover, in 1965. He served as a head linesman in the league until 1980, including working Super Bowl XIV, becoming the first African American to officiate the league’s championship game.
Also, five Black officials were a part of the Super Bowl LIV crew – including Anderson, Johnson, and Steed – the most minority officials ever on a Super Bowl officiating crew. Boger was the referee for Super Bowl XLVII to conclude the 2012 season.
While this is progress is progress, the NFL still has a long way to go when it comes to minorities in front office and head coaching positions. Also the question still remains why are we just seeing an all-black officiating crew in a league that is 100 years old. This is the same question that emerged when the a NFL team hired the first black president in the league earlier this year. However, this is a conversation for another day.
For now, these NFL referees deserve to be celebrated for breaking barriers and doing so during a nationally televised Monday Night Football game.