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As we mentioned earlier this week, the 2021 NBA All-Star Weekend is going to be…different.

We already know that all the festivities will take place in one night to save time, but people forget about the HBCU connection this year. Last month the NBA revealed that it’d be donating $3 million to HBCUs and offer support around equity and access to COVID-19 care, relief, and vaccines.


“NBA All-Star in Atlanta will continue our annual tradition of celebrating the game and the greatest players in the world before a global audience,” Commissioner Adam Silver said. “In addition to the festivities on the court, the All-Star Game will honor the vital role HBCUs play in our communities.”

While we still don’t know what that looks like exactly, it’s been revealed that every referee donning striped shirts Sunday night in Atlanta will be a graduate of historically Black colleges and universities.

Tom Washington will be the crew chief for the game and will be accompanied by officials Courtney Kirkland and Tony Brown.

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“It means opportunity,” Kirkland told ESPN. “To show and prove that we can do this craft. For many years before, it was believed that we couldn’t do this craft.”

Kirkland is no novice to being a referee since this is his  21st season as an NBA official, and he also participated last year when the crew was all Black. The Southern University grad explained that while Black men helped build the league, they were never given credit– even the greats in the 60s.

“You can go back to the years when Bill Russell was playing, it was believed that African Americans couldn’t play the game of basketball, it was believed that African Americans couldn’t referee the game of basketball. To be able to fast forward to the year 2021, it is understood that we can do this craft,” he added.

All-Star Weekend will also spotlight popular alumni, student, and HBCU musical groups, so if you’ve never gotten a chance to see the marching bands, you may be in for a treat.

Every Referee Officiating The 2021 NBA All-Star Game Will Be An HBCU Graduate  was originally published on