Replacement referees blow call that costs Packers a win

Replacement referees blow call that costs Packers a win

By Demario Smith-Phipps

The NFL is upholding the referees’ decision that Golden Tate caught the game winning touchdown pass Monday night.

On fourth down and 10, from the Green Bay 24-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone with eight seconds remaining. Green Bay’s safety M.D. Jennings and Seattle wideout Golden Tate both jockeyed for possession of the ball. From the video, it appears (quite obviously) that M.D. Jennings acquired possession first and seconds later Golden Tate managed to get both of his hands on the ball. The result of this play is usually an interception for the defense and the Packers would get the ball at the 20-yard line because the interceptor was downed in the end-zone resulting in a touchback.

In mind-blowing fashion, The NFL replacement referees ruled that this was a touchdown for Seattle.


Two sideline officials gathered near the spot of the catch, but neither agreed on a call. One referee immediately ruled it as a touchdown, the other expressed the motion for a timeout in the end zone. This motion usually means that there is a turnover and notifies officials to stop the game clock.

It is written in the NFL Rule Book that officials must deliberate together when a call is questionable and decide on a composite outcome. The replacement refs were either unaware of this rule or were caught up in the speed of the game. Either way, it is an egregious error that the usual NFL referees wouldn’t have made.

The NFL and the official referees have been in a lockout since early this summer. Last week, the two sides were in litigation, but there still isn’t a resolution and no further talks have been scheduled.

The lockout happened because the league asked referees to work full-time because football is such a complex sport. For example, refs could spend more time reviewing game film to be better prepared for unique game situations.

However, the NFL wants its refs to work more hours at the same pay. Most referees have at least one other job to help supplement their income from the NFL. The same referees you see on Sundays are also lawyers, teachers and construction workers. The league is also at odds with the game officials over pensions and benefits. The NFL wants to replace pensions with a 401k plan tied to the stock market.

The referees — not the players — decided the outcome of a game that could determine playoff situations for either team.

For weeks the NFL has led a campaign to improve the image of the game with the increase of player safety and awareness, application of stricter punishments on those suspected to have had involvement in player bounties and the introduction of the NFL brand to markets outside the country. But the replacement refs are the biggest issue the NFL should be trying to fix.


As ESPN’s Rick Reilly said, it’s like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

We have all grown up loving the sport of American football. It is as much a part of the American culture as apple pie or blue jeans. Over the years, there have been so many great football moments, from the Immaculate Reception to the Miracle at the Meadowlands. But it is the great players who make these great moments. There are not any football moments that people recall where the referee is praised for his performance.

To see a valued tradition defiled in a such a way shows negligence on the part of the NFL brass.

Demetrios Layne, a junior from Itasca studying physical education, said the call was the most ridiculous thing he ever saw in sports.

“How can two refs both have two different calls on the same play?” he said. “It was pathetic officiating.”

Layne, a quarterbacks coach for Carbondale High School, said he was furious with the game’s call, but he wouldn’t stop watching even if the replacement referees continue to officiate the games.

“I love football. As much as I hate what’s going(on), I won’t stop watching,” Layne said.

Nathan Armstrong, a junior from Williamsville studying history, said the blown call was almost laughable.

“We have got to get the old refs back. The league makes too much money for this to be an issue,” he said.

According to an calculation, the 119 official NFL referees each make about $8,000 a week. This totals to about $50 million a year out of the league’s pocket, which is less than 1 percent of the NFL’s total revenue from last year.

Jay Stonchus, a junior from Tinley Park studying architecture, said the league is a billion-dollar industry and he doesn’t understand why contract disputes still exist.

“The owners and Roger Goodell (commissioner of the league) have a multi-billion-dollar organization, and all the referees are looking for is a little bit of a pay raise,” Stonchus said. “There is no reason why the (referees) shouldn’t have a new contract by now.”

Although most people probably will not stop watching the game, their views and passion for football will be negatively affected if the situation persists.

It is football fans who keep the sport thriving. We buy the tickets, the jerseys and the overpriced concession food. It is because of us that the league is able to have lucrative TV contracts, because we huddle around it when a game is on.

The NFL would be wise to remember that.