By J. Coyden Palmer
The NFL announced on November 17 that for the first time in league history, one of its games will feature an all African American officiating crew for the game on November 23 between the visiting Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jerome Boger will lead the seven-person unit. Boger is a former Morehouse College quarterback and is in his seventeenth year as a league official.
Other members joining Boger: Umpire Barry Anderson, Down Judge Julian Mapp, Line Judge Carl Johnson, Field Judge Dale Shaw, Side Judge Anthony Jeffries and Back Judge Greg Steed.
The move is seen as part of the NFL’s commitment to diversity, which comes after complaints against the league by players and fans after the Colin Kaepernick controversy and a call for the NFL to initiate more social justice initiatives after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor earlier this year.
Business mogul Jay-Z last year partnered with the NFL to amplify the league’s social justice initiatives.
“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,” commented Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations.
Of the seven officials selected to work the game, three attended HBCUs. In addition to Boger (Morehouse), Down Judge Julian Mapp attended Grambling State and Back Judge Greg Steed attended Howard University. Boger worked the Super Bowl in 2012.
In addition to having several African American officials, the NFL also has one female official in Sarah Thomas.
Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner made history as the first females to become officials in a major sport when they became NBA referees in 1997.
The Week 11 crew will also serve as an inspiration for African Americans interested in officiating. Youth sports officials are needed in every sport around the country, according to the National Association of Sports Officials, based in Racine, WI.
Those who make it to the highest levels of officiating start out doing youth sports before moving up to the college and pro ranks.
The full list of the historic crew can be found below.
Referee Jerome Boger – 17th season, Morehouse – 2012 Season Super Bowl XLVII
Umpire Barry Anderson – 14th season, North Carolina State – 2019 Season Super Bowl LIV
Down Judge Julian Mapp – 12th season, Grambling State
Line Judge Carl Johnson – 17th season, Nicholls State – 2019 Season Super Bowl LIV; 2007 Season SB XLII
Side Judge Dale Shaw – 8th season, Allegheny
Field Judge Anthony Jeffries – 3rd season, Alabama-Birmingham
Back Judge Greg Steed – 18th season, Howard – 2019 Season Super Bowl LIV; 2009 Season Super Bowl XLIV