Published December 4, 2013
Peter King said his deep look into the life of NFL referees
for The MMQB, beginning today as a three-part series, represents some of the most important and significant work in the short history of the site. NFL referees typically have been off-limits to the press, with the exception of occasional pool reports. However, King last month was embedded with a Gene Steratore-led crew for the week prior to the Nov. 17 Ravens-Bears game, marking an unprecedented level of access to NFL on-field officials. "This was sort of the holy grail as we were putting together the site (with Sports Illustrated)," King said. "Being embedded with an officiating crew is something I've really wanted to do for a long time. They've essentially been behind an iron curtain. But being able to really understand their lives, the lives of one of the key parts of this game, definitely ranks way up there among the most significant things we've done so far on the site." King began negotiating his access to Steratore and his crew with the NFL back in the spring, months before the July launch of The MMQB. Among the key findings in the King series is how even slight demerits on weekly referee evaluations can greatly imperil future opportunities to officiate postseason games, or even future employment with the league. "Most people feel these guys have no consequences, that they're bulletproof. But that couldn't be further from the truth. There is no immunity and no sacred cows in this business," King said. While industry debate regarding the possibility of making NFL referees full-time rages on, King said his reporting found little support for that move. "I talked to those guys a lot about it, and the general feeling is that there isn't a lot more they could do that isn't already being done," he said.