As NFL gears up for its first all-Black officiating crew, umpire Barry Anderson says it’s an opportunity to pay homage


Barry Anderson has an impossible job: make sure top athletes obey the rules of the most-watched game in America but never become part of the game itself. When he does his job well you won’t notice him but sometimes conflict is inescapable.

However, this Monday night, he will unavoidably take center stage.

“This is a historical moment,” said NFL official Barry Anderson.

For the first time in the league’s 100 year history, Anderson will be the umpire in an all-Black crew officiating an NFL game. An opportunity some would use to take a bow but instead he uses it to say thanks.

“It’s an opportunity for me to pay homage to the many black officials who paved the way for me to be here today, said Anderson. “Many you have never heard of like Steve Daniels, Marshall Arnold, Dr. Moses Norman, Johnny Grier, Chad Brown, and Byron Boston just to name a few. For me, this is an opportunity to say thank you.”

His gratitude doesn’t stop at those people who helped and inspired him along the way but extends to the game itself. When asked to reflect on what football means to him Barry revealed how the game is woven into the fabric of his life. It’s been at the center of so many positive outcomes for him and his family.

“As a 17-year-old walk on it NC State University it provided me with the means to obtain a four-year athletic scholarship and ultimately my college degree,” said Anderson. “All three of my sons played football as youths. My oldest son had an option to play college baseball while my middle son chose college football over college baseball. My youngest, he is set to begin his collegiate football career in the fall of 2021. In February of this year, I had the honor of officiating Super Bowl 54.”

Football runs in the family. Barry wound up officiating but his brother-in-law Bobby Hamilton played 13 years winning two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots. His cousin Steve Wallace had a 12-year career and was a three-time Super Bowl champion With the San Francisco 49ers.

When asked to sum up the game he said it best by telling us, “When I think about football,” said Anderson. “Football is my life. It has been my life and it’s been a damn good one.”

To think we have COVID-19 to thank for this history-making event. The NFL usually puts together its 17 officiating crews ahead of the season and tries to keep them together whenever possible in order to improve communication and familiarity between the members.

Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the league broke with tradition this season and assembled the crew on a geographical basis, to allow referees and officials to drive to and from games instead of flying.

Kickoff Monday night between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is set for 8:15 p.m.

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