Replacement Refs: Enough is Enough

What’s it going to take?

At this point, after three weeks of ridiculously bad officiating, what will it take for the NFL and the owners of the teams to end the referee lockout?  A coach punching a ref?  A bench clearing brawl?  A quarterback being carted off to the hospital?  It all seems very plausible considering how badly things have gotten.  Each time it seems it can’t get worse, it does.  Much worse.

Last night’s Patriots-Ravens game, already a cauldron of intense rivalry and emotion, almost boiled over into mayhem.  While ferocious hits and trash talk were partly the reason, the things fans love to see, the other significant factor was extremely poor calls, especially on critical plays with the game on the line.  The game ended with New England coach Bill Belichick chasing an official off the field, grabbing his arm and berating him for a pass interference call at the end of the game.

In all honesty, it was probably pass interference.  But that’s not the point any longer.  The replacement referees have no legitimacy, no authority over the game, its coaches or players.   The lack of respect and open hostility shown to toward the referees has gotten way out of control.

The NFL and its Commissioner have been put on notice.  In addition to hundreds of articles about how the officiating has cost the league its legitimacy and put players’ safety in jeopardy, last Thursday the NFL Players Association sent as strongly worded letter as you will see to the owners of the NFL teams.

In part, the NFLPA stated, “It is lost on us as to how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety.  It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team.  We note that your Commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of “safety.” Your actions are looking more and more like simpler greed.”   Strong but appropriate words.  And keep in mind – the letter was delivered before this weekend’s fiasco.

Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the league and representatives of the referees’ union met over the week.  After the meeting ended, apparently the sides were still very far apart and no further talks were scheduled.

So, what is it going to take?  It seems everyone sees this coming to a disastrous end if the Commissioner and the league don’t step up quickly to do the right thing.  Given the public outcry from fans, coaches and players, the fact that they haven’t indicates there are serious problems with how the NFL is currently operated.  But that is a discussion for later – once the integrity and safety of the game have been restored.


Photo by @MattTheMexican spotted by @Darrenrovell

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