NFL referee lockout is hurting game’s integrity

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The mistakes made by game officials in the final three minutes of the Minnesota Vikings’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers illustrated some points worth consideration:

—The NFL owners need to resolve their differences with the union referees and get them back on the field. The owners like to call themselves guardians of the game, but the replacements are hurting the game with not just sloppy calls but outright failures to follow some basic rules. The most glaring error was that the 49ers got to challenge plays even though they had no timeouts. The problem in labor talks, according to sports media, is that the owners are unwilling to compromise in any way. If the owners cherish the integrity of the game so much, they can afford some measure of compromise. It’s clear this season that it’s not easy to be an NFL official. The lockout, after all, is the No. 1 issue throughout the league.

—Owners say they are dedicated to protecting players from unwarranted cheap shots, but players aren’t respecting the replacement refs. Players are getting hit in unprotected ways, yet the replacements are tentative to throw flags. Without a clear knowledge of the rulebook, they can’t react, and so often they don’t. The normal refs know the rules by heart and can do more to protect players. They also can do a better job of keeping the games from getting out of control in general. Perhaps when a team loses a game on a blown call, one of the influential owners will put his foot down.

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—There needs to be audio on the replays the officials in the booth look at. The booth officials are not part of the referees’ union. They are the real deal, the ones who do it when the normal refs are out there. However, from one of the reviews of a Toby Gerhardt fumble, it was clear they made a ruling without consideration for when the whistle blew the play dead.

We hope the league can get the attention of fans back on the game itself, instead of on bad calls.


—Albert Lea Tribune