An all-Black officiating crew will work an NFL game for the first time on Monday night in Tampa, allowing the league to make a social statement in addition to serving up a premier matchup when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Los Angeles Rams.
The seven-man unit will be headed by referee Jerome Boger, a former Morehouse College quarterback who refereed Super Bowl XLVII and is in his 17th year as a league official.
Other members of the distinctive crew: 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 makeup of the unit is no coincidence. Members were drawn from various crews and assembled for a specific purpose, weeks after the NFL marked its 100-year anniversary.
“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,” Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.
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It’s striking, too, that the officiating milestone involves the Bucs and the Rams — teams with significant markers for inclusions in their own right.
Tampa Bay is the first team in league history with three Black coordinators in Todd Bowles (defense), Byron Leftwich (offense) and Keith Armstrong (special teams), in addition to two female assistant coaches on Bruce Arians’ staff in Lori Locust (assistant defensive line) and Maral Javadifar (assistant strength and conditioning).
The Rams were the first NFL team to reintegrate in 1946 after a 12-year color ban, signing running back Kenny Washington and receiver Woodie Strode, which coincided with the Cleveland Browns, then of the All-American Conference, adding fullback Marion Motley and guard Bill Willis.
Generally, the less that game officials are noticed the better for not drawing attention with controversial calls.
On Monday night, Boger’s crew will be distinguished for an entirely different reason.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.