The Cherokee Nation is the largest of three Cherokee-recognized tribes in the US. Recently, dreams came true for the 48-year-old Oklahoma Cherokee citizen and school teacher, Jerod Phillips, when he was selected to act as a down-judge official for the 2023 Super Bowl. Even though this is his 7th season in the NFL, he continues to support the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association as a coordinator.
Indigenous people are represented in multiple ways at the 2023 Super Bowl. An indigenous artist's work is featured on the tickets, and a Native teacher is performing sign language during the opening.
Officials say that Philips is possibly the first Cherokee Nation citizen to officiate a Super Bowl event, and we couldn’t be prouder. He is a coach and teacher at Wickliffe Elementary School in Salina. Moreover, he taught at Grove for around 14 years, then joined Wickliffe as part of a two-year contract as a basketball coach and teacher.
Chuck Hoskin Jr., Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, was utterly delighted as he congratulated Phillips, stating it is a big milestone achieved in an already thriving career. He expressed his pride in Cherokee Nation citizens by highlighting their success in various industries and roles throughout the globe, including professional sports.
Jerod Phillips began officiating in 1993, and his field was amateur sports. In 2009, he started a whirlwind of officiating roles at the Division 1 college level football by working in Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics, Mountain West, Southland, and Big 12 conferences.
He then made his way to the prestigious NFL ranks in 2016, showing the talent, dedication, and ability of Cherokee citizens. Before becoming a full-time officiant, Jerod coached and taught at Grove public schools for around 15 years.
During a 2018 interview, he stated how it wasn’t fair to his students that he was absent from school so much due to officiating. “I was on the road too much and couldn’t fulfill my obligation in the classroom.” He continued to explain how a substitute teacher would have to fill in his place 60% of the time, which wasn’t fair to the kids.
In a Facebook post, Hoskin congratulated Phillips for “becoming the first official to represent the tribe in a Super Bowl.” Philips said that he was honored to be applauded by the tribe for his professional achievement.
The Cherokee Pheonix story in 2018 gave Phillips credit for being the only Cherokee who served as an NFL official. He explained in his 2018 interview that he had been regarded as the first and only Cherokee citizen to officiate a football ceremony.
He also stated that other referees in the industry have some extent of Native blood. Phillips then showed his excitement about how people are always interested in which tribe he belongs to wherever he goes. “It has been a real honor to travel, talk to people about Cherokee Nation, and be part of such a big community.”
Phillips also gives credit to his family for their complete understanding and full support for his career. He then said that the first few years were a little challenging due to the drastic change, but now they get to travel the world, and he loves that aspect of his job.