In the 2012 NFL offseason, a second lockout took place throughout the league. Although not as big and impactful as last year’s player lockout that placed an NFL season in jeopardy, the NFL referee dispute has shown just how important officiating is in America’s most popular league.
Seeking more money, better benefits and a secure financial future, the referees have not received what they wanted from the NFL and were locked out in June. Since then, little progress has been made made to get them back on the field.
Sports Illustrated reported that the NFL Referees Association believed that the league wanted to lock them out all along rather than negotiate new terms on a contract. Saying the two sides are still far apart would be an understatement.
The decision was made to bring in replacement referees to officiate games, much to the ire of NFL fans. Richie Sorce, a senior at Ramapo College, shares this sentiment.
“The regular referees are trained to do their jobs,” Sorce said. “They’re there for a reason, and bringing in replacements is only going to cause problems. They really don’t know what they’re doing.”
Questionable calls during the preseason did not help the replacement referees’ case. Even NFL players are questioning the situation.
New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz told the Associated Press that he was uncomfortable with replacement officials and had heard that “one of refs, he’d only reffed a glorified high school game.” Joe Flacco complained about a pass interference call that erased a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the Baltimore Ravens’ one-point loss.
Philadelphia Eagles’ LeSean McCoy claimed that an official informed the running back that he is on the referee’s fantasy football team.
So the real question is whether the game has changed because of replacement officials or players and fans are looking for someone to blame.
“I guess you could also make an argument about the regular referees,” Sorce said. “I know I’m always seeing questionable and sometimes stupid calls even when the regular refs are there.”
However, some see that the game is hard, and often longer, to watch at times.
“The game is longer, and it’s almost embarrassing that they take two minutes just to announce why they threw a flag,” former Ramapo student Nick Lalueza said. “Sometimes I wonder if they even know themselves why they threw one.”
The general consensus is that while both replacement referees and regular referees make questionable calls, it’s time to get the professionals back on the field.
“There has just been too many mistakes that could have been avoided had the regular referees been on the field,” Sorce said. “It’s time to get them there and have the game looked at correctly.”
The urgency fans have about the league sitting down with the referees union seems to be more intense than the actual games.
“They need to negotiate with the referees,” Lalueza said. “I don’t think it’s on the top of their list, so I don’t think it’ll be anytime soon, but they need to before it gets bad.”