NFL's first Black referee, Johnny Grier, dies at 74

Dolphins Chargers AFC 1995
Posted at 10:51 AM, Mar 10, 2022

The National Football League is mourning the loss of one of its own.

Johnny Grier, the league's first Black referee, has died. He was 74.

Troy Vincent Sr., the NFL's Executive Vice President of Football Operations, confirmed on Twitter Wednesday.

"[Grier] was a trailblazer who paved the way for those in the field of NFL officiating and beyond," Vincent said in a tweet. "Rest in peace, Johnny."

According to Football Zebras, the University of D.C. graduate began his officiating career in 1965, working high school games and then moved to officiate college football games in 1972.

The NFL hired the North Carolina native in 1981 as a field judge and worked his final game as a field judge in Super Bowl XXII.

In 1988, Grier made history when he became the league's first Black referee when he was promoted to the position.

According to Football Zebras, Grier's career spanned 24 years, having worked 15 playoff games, eight as a referee.

Retiring as a referee in 2004 due to a leg injury, Grier continued working for the NFL and college as an officiating supervisor.