In a historic milestone, an all-Black officiating crew will work an NFL game for the first time in Week 11 when the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play on Monday night.
The league combined members of two different officiating crews for the recognition.
NFL will have all-Black officiating crew
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said in a statement, via ESPN:
“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.”
Referee Jerome Boger will lead the crew. He’s a former Morehouse College quarterback in his 17th year as a league official. Boger worked Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013.
He’s joined by four members of his 2020 crew: umpire Barry Anderson, down judge Julian Mapp, side judge Dale Shaw and field judge Anthony Jeffries.
They are joined by line judge Carl Johnson and back judge Greg Steed.
The NFL organizes 17 officiating crews before the start of the season and tries to keep them together. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the league organized those groups by home geography so they could drive, rather than only fly, to games.
Rams-Buccaneers a game of representation
The Monday night game featuring Tom Brady’s Buccaneers (7-3) and the Los Angeles Rams (6-3) will showcase the emerging diversity in a league that has historically featured white men in officiating and coaching roles.
The Buccaneers are the first team in league history with three Black coordinators: Todd Bowles (defense), Byron Leftwich (offense) and Keith Armstrong (special teams). Harold Goodwin, the assistant head coach, offensive line coach and run game coordinator, is also Black.
Tampa Bay also has two women coaching, the first team to have two full-time women coaches on the staff. Head coach Bruce Arians added Lori Locust (assistant defensive line) and Maral Javadifar (assistant strength and conditioning) in March 2019.
“It's time, and I'll be happy when it's not news anymore,” he said when the news was announced.
Growing diversity in NFL
But Arians, 68, does see why his coaching staff is seen as historically significant. The personnel moves have made the pages of NFL history and will be notable markers for decades to come.
“It really shouldn’t be, but it is,” Arians said, via The Undefeated in October 2019. “When I see a qualified person not getting an opportunity, I want to give ’em one. … I hope more and more [head coaches] do because of [what I have done], and then we can stop talking about it. It’s just like with the women [coaches]. Hopefully, pretty soon, it won’t be news.”
The NFL is adding layers to its Rooney Rule to increase diversity in the coaching ranks, though overall the provisions haven’t worked to plan. It is doing better percentage-wise in the officiating role, where four of the 17 referee/crew chiefs are Black. Two of the three men in the officiating team’s leadership are Black.
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