WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A group of men is making history on the football field.
“We just want to have a presence,” said Matthew Williams.
Williams is in his 16th year of officiating high school sports. This is his first year reffing alongside five men who look like him.
“One of the people from the school came in looked around and said, ‘all Black reffing crew? I like this!’ You know, so it’s exciting to them and it’s exciting to us too,” said referee Teon Wilson.
Williams said this is the first time in more than 10 years an all-Black officiating crew has worked together in the Wichita area.
“With it being that long, it gives the opportunity to bring that back and show anything is possible with good work and hard work,” Williams said.
The men said they are proud to be a part of a team that is breaking stereotypes, however, it’s not why they take the field each week.
“It ain’t about being an all-Black crew. We are just officials. We don’t care about anything other than the kids are safe, making sure the kids are learning what they’re supposed to do, keep doing what they’re supposed to do on the field,” Wilson explained.
“For us, it has never been a Black and white thing. It’s just, you know, let’s come together, learn the craft and get going,” Williams said.
Williams and Wilson grew up on the football field. Wilson took his talents to Central Missouri State University while Williams played at a college in Oklahoma.
“After that, I tried pursuing different leagues. Ended up playing for the Wichita Wild, Wichita Stealth,” he said.
The love of the game inspired the mens’ interest in officiating.
“It gives you an opportunity to feel a part of a game. Of course, I am a former player, so you know being out on the field with a group of guys, we enjoy being around, makes it exciting, makes it worth while,” Williams said.
While Williams will admit the 2020 football season did not go as planned thanks to the pandemic, he and his crew are proud of their work on and off the field.
“Whether it is Black or white, it doesn’t matter,” Williams said. “We want to be a part of the game and this is our opportunity to be a part of the game as a family.”
The men plan on officiating high school basketball this year too.