As the NFL prepares for its first all-black team of officials, referee Barry Anderson says it’s time to pay tribute

Barry Anderson has an impossible job of making sure the best athletes obey the rules of America’s most watched game, but never be part of the game itself. When he does his job well, you won’t notice it, but sometimes conflict is inevitable.

However, this Monday evening, he will inevitably take center stage.

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

For the first time in the league’s 100-year history, Anderson will be an all-black crew referee in an NFL game. An opportunity some would use to say hello, but instead he uses it to say thank you.

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

His gratitude doesn’t stop with the 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. This has been at the center of so many positive results for him and his family.

“As a 17-year-old, North Carolina State University empowered me to get a four-year athletic scholarship and ultimately my college degree,” Anderson said. “My three sons played football when they were young. My oldest son had the option of playing college baseball while my second son chose college football over college baseball. My youngest, he is expected to start his college football career in the fall of 2021. In February of this year, I had the honor of officiating Super Bowl 54.

Football is family-friendly. Barry ended up refereeing, but his brother-in-law Bobby Hamilton played 13, 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 of football,” Anderson said. “Football is my life. It’s been my life and it’s been a hell of a good life.

To think that we have COVID-19 to thank for this historic event. The NFL typically assembles its 17 teams of officials before the season and tries to keep them together as much as possible in order to improve communication and familiarity among members.

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the league has broken with tradition this season and brought the crew together on a geographic basis, to allow referees and officials to drive to matches instead of flying.

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

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