There are not a whole lot of things better in the world of sports than the opening week of NFL football.
As a fan who meticulously follows everything my favorite team does during the offseason, it is thrilling to finally see their hard work
displayed on the field.
However, the NFL’s integrity is getting put into question at the beginning of this season because of the decision to use replacement referees
for at least week one, if not longer.
This situation has arisen after the usual NFL referees are being locked out after asking for more money to do one of the most underappreciated
jobs in sports.
Currently there are 119 part-time referees employed by the NFL, and they are paid 8,000 per week, which according to an ESPN article from
Aug. 23, is $50 million a year, less than one percent of the NFL’s total revenue.
Now, the NFL has hired referees that prior to this season were officiating in Division II. Preceding the games that actually count, we, as fans,
got a preview of things to come during the preseason, and what we saw was not pretty.
Some of the most glaring mistakes were just flat out embarrassing.
A punt that was clearly downed within the 10-yard line was called a touchback during a preseason game between the Buffalo Bills and
Washington Redskins on Aug. 9. After having to review the play, it was finally called right on the field. This and general timidity to call penalties
are the biggest miscues so far.
So then why is the NFL being so frugal about this situation? Simply put, because they can. They know that just because some under qualified
referees might be officiating games, that it won’t stop football fans from watching the games.
Sadly, this is true. I know that just because a lower quality referee group is officiating a game, that it won’t prevent me from watching the
games. However, for me it isn’t about being able to watch the games. It’s about the NFL and its owner’s integrity when it comes to the games.
How can the NFL justify its new safety initiative, if they can’t even put their highest quality product of football on the field? It baffles me to
think that they can act like they care about player safety when they are employing officials that will put their safety in jeopardy.
Not to mention that just paying the qualified officials would be chump change for the NFL, yet once again, they are taking advantage of their
advantageous situation and being a bully just to make an extra buck.
It amazes me how hypocritical the NFL can be when it comes to this referee situation. They need to realize that there are more important
things facing the league right now, like the over 2,000 former players suing the league because they withheld information on the impacts of
concussions on the brain.
Or maybe the franchise owners should address the fact that the NFL just revised the old blackout rules, which now say only 85 percent of
tickets need to be sold to avoid a television blackout in the local markets.
For the NFL, there are bigger fish to fry than this petty situation with the refs. The sooner they realize this, the sooner we can get back to
watching the game the way it is supposed to be played, where the refs don’t play a factor.