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Packers-Seahawks Monday Night Replacement Ref Debacle: Just Because Regular Refs Are Needed Doesn’t Mean They Are Right

By Melissa Siegel, Posted: 09/25/12 09:05AM EDT
Packers looking for a playoff win.(Photo : Reuters)

As soon as Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson's Hail Mary pass fell into the arms of both Golden Tate and a Green Bay Packers defender Monday night, it was clear there would be controversy over the outcome of this game. When the replacement refs ruled the play a Seattle touchdown, despite replays showing the contrary, fan and media outcry began almost immediately.

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As Twitter exploded with reaction to the blown call, many of the tweets pointed the blame squarely at the NFL owners for refusing to pay the referees. People around the globe began calling for the owners and commissioner Roger Goodell to pay the regular refs whatever they want, as long as they agree to come back as soon as possible.

For example, Gary Myers, a sports columnist for the New York Daily News, tweeted, "Roger Goodell must protect the shield and bring regular officials back. This game is humiliating for NFL. Total chaos. Pay the refs."

Over on the west coast, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote in his Tuesday column that the NFL owners need to just "cut their losses" and pay the regular referees.

Even Samuel L. Jackson got into the fun, telling his Twitter followers, "Okay, TOTALLY TIME for the Cheap Assed Owners to PONY UP!! These refs are in Over their heads!!! OBVIOUSLY!!!"

This message has been retweeted over 5,000 times.

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Clearly, last night's debacle proved that the replacement referees are not cut out to officiate in the NFL. The longer contests, myriad in-game conferences, and debates over fan loyalties of the replacements were bad enough. Now at least one team's playoff hopes could be ruined as a result of a blown call.

But even though these replacements are inadequate, that does not mean the owners should give the regular refs everything they ask for.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King pointed out in his Monday Morning Quarterback column that much of the stalemate centers around the league's desire to decrease the amount they contribute to the referees' pension this year. While the league certainly can afford to, few part-time employees get pensions in the first place. Also, as King notes, many full-time employees in the league have already taken lesser pensions, so why should the part-time referees be any different?

King also writes that the referees are concerned about the NFL's idea for an officials' farm system. It would be used to train new referees and replace those who are retiring or ineffective. King says that the current referees are worried about their job security if this plan goes through. But as long as those officials continue to make the correct calls on the field, they won't have to worry about being replaced.

This is not to say that the referees should completely cave in, either. Each side makes legitimate points in the dispute. Hopefully last night's debacle will convince both the officials and the owners to come together and agree to a compromise that is fair to both parties.

After all, if a blown game doesn't convince them to settle their differences, nothing will.



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