Who has had the longest NFL career

Cultivating your image in American football: one small step

The National Football League uses a crew of black referees for the first time. She pats herself mightily on the back for this.

Historic appearance: the first black referee crew in NFL history Photo: Kim Klement / Reuters

It was an exciting game that flickered into the living room for North American football fans on Monday evening at prime time. A good two minutes before the end, the Los Angeles Rams scored the decisive field goal for the 27:24 success at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - junior quarterback Jared Goff, 26, won against 43-year-old Tom Brady, his great role model from childhood.

But the big sensation that was offered to the audience at "Monday Night Football", the prominent slot of the NFL, was another: with Jerome Boger, Barry Anderson, Julian Mapp, Carl Johnson, Dale Shaw, Anthony Jeffries and Greg Steed formed For the first time in the exactly 100-year history of the league, all referees were African American

The fact that this could happen had just as much to do with the Covid 19 pandemic as it did with the traditionally conservative NFL's plan to give itself a progressive image. Usually a summer training camp determines which referees work together during the season. They moved away from this this year because of Corona: In order to keep travel activities as small as possible, the seven-person teams are reassembled according to regional factors before each match day. The league used this opportunity to put together an entire crew of black referees, led by main referee Jerome Boger, for a “Monday Night Football” broadcast.

USA Today found that in view of the Black Lives Matter protests and the presidential election “a strong statement especially in 2020”, for CNN even “history was made”.

Lots of self-praise

The NFL itself celebrated the promotional coup that it had come up with: Troy Vincent, one of the few blacks in the NFL's top officials, was sent out to praise the media-effective campaign as "a testament to the countless and immeasurable achievements, with whom black referees have made a name for themselves in football ”.

Critical voices were heard only a few in the rampant enthusiasm. In an article for theundefeated.com sports portal, legendary black sports journalist William C. Rhoden wrote: “That should have happened a long time ago. The NFL should resist the urge to pat itself on the back. ”Then led Rhoden, who in his 2006 book“ Forty Million Dollar Slaves ”drew a line from the plantations of the slave era to the sporting entertainment industry of our day with its highly paid black gladiators , the reader at a time when the NFL was officially a racist company.

The NFL was founded in 1920, and 14 years later banned black professionals. The ban was lifted again in 1946, but black athletes were systematically discriminated against even afterwards. Above all, they were denied the ability to master the more intellectually demanding positions in football, especially that of playmaker. For decades, black quarterbacks didn't get a chance in the NFL.

And to this day, black players have struggled with stereotypes: in an NFL in which two-thirds of the professionals are African-American, only just under a third of the quarterbacks are black in 2020. The disproportion among officials is even greater: just 3 out of 32 NFL teams have a black head coach, and only 2 employ a black sports director.

It looks similar with the referees. Burl Toler became the NFL's first black assistant referee in 1965. It wasn't until 1988 that Johnny Grier became the first black chief judge. Today 40 of the 121 referees are black, only 4 of them are allowed to lead a referee team. So the NFL has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.