In a first of its kind partnership, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has enlisted the assistance of the National Football League to provide implicit bias training to high school football officials, a program that may expand to other sports as this unique school year progresses.

As a sign of the times, the workshop will be held virtually Sept. 22 and 23, for about 1,100 game officials.

Stretching the event to two days will afford expanded opportunities for everyone involved to get their say.

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"I do think there will be opportunity that if some in the field do have questions or want to dive in a little deeper to a particular topic or to a particular conversation, I think there will be the opportunity to do so," Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA chief operating officer, said.

Maguire said that the social justice climate across the United States in the last few months prompted her organization to ask what it could do to better educate its participants on why diversity matters.

The NJSIAA's endeavor was also developed with the help of the state Division on Civil Rights, under the Office of the Attorney General.

Al Riveron, NFL senior vice president of officiating, will take part in the discussion, which no other individual states have yet explored with the league.

"New Jersey, I guess, was the first to ask, so I think if it goes well for everyone, that they may be interested in trying to continue it into other states," Maguire said. "Mid-July, I think, is when we first finally connected on this topic, so they've really done a great job in a very short period of time to get this workshop in place."

Educating the referees is only the first part of the NJSIAA's goal; a hypothetical second part would engage athletic administrators, coaches, and trainers in discussions on diversity and inclusion.

It is Maguire's hope that as the academic year goes on, perhaps other pro sports leagues will express interest in working with the NJSIAA in a similar fashion.

"I think the success of this will garner attraction, and I think it will be an opportunity that we can start to get inroads with other professional organizations," she said.

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