For the first time in league history, the NBA will have an umpire team made up entirely of historically black college and university graduates who will officiate Sunday’s All-Star Game in Atlanta.
With the NBA supporting and celebrating the HBCUs as the theme for this weekend’s All-Star Game, Tom Washington will serve as the game’s crew chief alongside officials Courtney Kirkland and Tony Brown.
“It means opportunity,” Kirkland, who is in his 21st season as an NBA official and a 1999 graduate of Southern University, told ESPN. “To show and demonstrate that we can do this craft. For many years before, it was believed that we could not do this craft.
“You can go back to the years when Bill Russell played, it was believed that African Americans could not play basketball, it was believed that African Americans could not referee basketball. In order to fast forward to the year 2021, it is understood that we can do this job.” .
Kirkland was part of last year’s All-Star team, which included all black officials. This weekend, the team of three HBCU graduates will represent their alma maters and HBCU heritage; they also live in Atlanta.
For Washington, officiating this All-Star Game with fellow HBCU graduates will be the proudest moment of its 30 seasons; He was previously part of the first African-American three-person team for the Game 2 Finals of the 2012 NBA Finals.
“This is a proud moment, if not more,” said Washington, who graduated from Norfolk State University in 1978. “Really recognizing the legacy of the HBCU and that I am a part of it and hopefully represent it. in the most honorable way I walk along the way. “
“The fact that the NBA is taking the time to honor and put the HBCUs at the forefront is really humbling,” Washington added. “It is an honor and a privilege.”
During this weekend’s All-Star events, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association will commit more than $ 3 million in funding and resources to highlight the importance of the HBCUs and raise awareness and support around the disparate impact of the HBCU. COVID-19 in communities of color.
All-Star Weekend will also feature performances and content from HBCU musical groups, distinguished alumni and students.
“First of all, to be a black man, in this current state and time,” said Brown, who is in his 19th season and graduated in 1989 from Clark Atlanta University. “It’s very enriching to go out and stay positive, to encourage other people to educate themselves and do the right thing and just try to reach out to you, teach you and be a good human being.
“Because we work so hard on our game, our work should not be seen. So when we do it correctly, they will not even know there are three black men refereeing. They will know that the game went on smoothly. But yes. [tune in] before the game, it might be the only time they’ll say, ‘Oh, okay, [the crew is made up of HBCU grads]. And I hope that the people of my alma mater will say that he is one of us. That is the sense of pride that we will share together. “