ATLANTA — ATLANTA – Sunday’s Super Bowl in Atlanta will take place under the watchful eye of officials dressed in unique striped uniforms.

Whether it’s football, basketball, or soccer, referees are commonly dressed in black and white striped shirts.


The outfit has earned them the nickname “Zebra,” but referees didn’t always wear their striped uniforms.

For the answer, you have to go back to the early days of soccer. At that time, the players themselves would settle disputes, but they soon realized they needed an impartial judge. They started using referees, and soon after American football teams followed suit.


Why does the Super Bowl use Roman numerals?

Why is a football called a pigskin?

At first, referees wore white shirts and bow ties. Problems arrived when they would often oversee games involving teams wearing white.

It was referee Lloyd Olds who thought of a solution. Olds told his alma mater Eastern Michigan that athletes would often mistake him for a player.

“The lads often threw the ball to me, or bounced it off of my head” Olds told the school.

He had a friend design a shirt that helped set him apart from the players. His broad black and white stripes quickly became commonplace with both football and basketball referees.

By the way, Olds says he took some ribbing the first time he wore his stripes. It helped him go down in history, but it hasn’t stopped the not so friendly name calling referees often endure.

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