SBD/September 26, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Players Voice Their Displeasure Over League's Use Of Replacement Officials

Reed was among vocal players, claiming NFL owners "don't protect the shield"
Packers G T.J. Lang believes that public opinion “can change if more players speak out” about the impact replacement refs are having on the game, according to Tyler Dunne of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Dunne notes even as the "gaffes by the replacements continue, fans probably will continue to pump millions of dollars into the NFL." Lang said that he “doesn’t want players to hold back any longer.” Lang: “We've gotten to a point where if we don't take a stand, nothing's going to happen. We'd just be letting these refs ruin games. The NFL doesn't give a crap. They're still making money. People are still coming to the games.” He added, “There needs to be more players who speak out to really put pressure on the NFL to try to get something done” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/26). Ravens S Ed Reed said, “It's an integrity part about the game that they expect the players to uphold, protect the shield like they always tell us, but they don't protect the shield when it comes to the owners and everybody else getting money” (Baltimore SUN, 9/26). Browns WR Josh Cribbs: “I feel like they’re just covering up for the refs. I feel like the NFL is messing up the integrity of the game.” Browns OT Joe Thomas: “It’s a dark shadow over the NFL. It’s a shame. People should be talking about the players but instead everyone is talking about the officials” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 9/26). Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: “My main concern is protecting the integrity of the game. The reason fans watch our game in such high numbers is that they can always count on fair, competitive physical play every single week. That is what makes it exciting and that's what makes them view.” He added, “It is what keeps the fans coming back so you have to protect that, it is important they believe in what they are seeing in the stadiums and on their televisions. The NFL has some work to do to get that fixed. I just hope it can be done soon” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/25). Packers G Josh Sitton: "It’s hard to blame them entirely because they shouldn’t be out there. We’ve got to blame the NFL and blame the owners for not getting the real refs out there" ("The Jim Rome Show," 9/25).

WORRIES EXIST ON BOTH SIDES
: Giants DE Justin Tuck said every player in the NFL "worries about" the referee situation. Tuck: "I know players are on eggshells and the replacement referees are on eggshells because they know that everything that they say, whether it's right or wrong, is going to be scrutinized. I look at it as a lose-lose situation” (NEWSDAY, 9/26). Redskins CB Josh Wilson, referencing the end of his team’s game Sunday against the Bengals, said, “I don’t understand the calls. I don’t really know what to do anymore. It makes it hard to be able to perform at a high level when you don’t know what’s legal, what’s illegal. I don’t know any more. It’s confusing” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/25). Patriots QB Tom Brady: “I see more pileups and punching and all that crap that goes on before and after plays, and pileups and stuff like that then there would probably normally be, and maybe guys are taking advantage a bit of the guys. From my standpoint, for me it's been business as usual” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 9/25).

SMITH SPEAKS OUT: NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith addressed the referee situation on "CBS This Morning" today and said it primarily is a "health and safety issue" for the union. Smith: "We’re a group of players who have an extremely short playing career, about 3.5 years on average, and we’re an industry where our injury rate is 100% on the workplace. So the way we look at this issue is a little bit beyond just a bad call on a Monday night. The referees on the field are the first responders for health and safety for a group of players where we know that virtually every player in the National Football League will be injured at work.” He noted there are plenty of owners who "believe that it’s important for our players to work safer." Smith: "Where we are right now is inconsistent with that. When you take a group of officials who have a collective experience of 1,500 years off the field and you replace them with a group of replacements that don’t have that experience, our players know that the work place today is less safe than it was with the real officials.” However, he adamantly said he would not advise players to sit out games until the league signs a new CBA with the refs. Smith: "I’m not sure that it’s ever a good idea to punish our fans because we’re mad at the owners. What we are going to do is make sure that the NFL honors its obligation and keep the workplace safe. We’ll take every legal action that we can and what we need” ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 9/26).

BI-PARTISAN EFFORT: USA TODAY's Gary Mihoces reports politicians across the land "have joined in chorus to call for an end to the NFL lockout of its regular officials." President Obama yesterday said, "I've been saying for months we've got to get our refs back." Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan, who is from Wisconsin, "lamented the controversial touchdown call" during Packers-Seahawks. Ryan during a campaign stop in Ohio said, "Did you guys watch the game last night? I mean, give me a break. It's time to get the real refs back" (USA TODAY, 9/26). White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama watched Monday's game and Obama "thinks there was a real problem" with the call at the end of the game. Mitt Romney said, "I sure would like to see some experienced referees, with NFL experience, come back on to the NFL playing fields" (AP, 9/26). Former President Bill Clinton: "We need to get the strike over and get more experienced people in there" (NYTIMES.com, 9/25). Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt "lodged a complaint" with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the Packers' "controversial loss" (GREENBAYPRESSGAZETTE.com, 9/25).

CALLS FLOOD LEAGUE OFFICE: In Tacoma, Adam Lynn reports "more than 70,000 voice mails about the game were left at NFL headquarters Tuesday." Most of them were "presumably calling for the league to settle its differences with its locked-out referees and send the replacement refs who've overseen the first three weeks of the season to the showers" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 9/26).
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