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NFL’s first black referee Johnny Grier died at the age of 74

Johnny Grier was a pioneer in the NFL. He was the first black referee in the NFL. He would officiate for 16 years running one of the top officiating crews in the NFL. His first time stepping on the field was back in 1988 with the NFL.

Grier was 74 years old at the time of his death.

Johnny worked with the NFL back in 1981 as a field judge, working under Jim Tunney.

Grier worked as a referee in high school and college before joining the NFL. We will all miss Johnny Grier, but man did he change the game.

According to New York Times, Mr. Grier was the N.F.L.’s first Black referee, he was not the league’s first Black official; Burl Toler earned that distinction when he was hired in 1965. Mike Carey was the first Black referee to officiate at a Super Bowl, in 2008.

Grier was a humble man. Back in 1988, he told Ebony Magazine in an interview,

“the first time I make a call that goes against somebody that they don’t like, I’m going to be just another referee.”

He downplayed the fact that he was a pioneer, but that is what made Johnny Special.

Please keep the Grier family in your prayers. This is a tough loss and the NFL lost a legend.


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