Over the weekend, Green Bay Packers star Charles Woodson told USA Today that the NFL’s replacement referees “haven’t been very good.” Woodson is one of the first NFL players to go on record, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has instructed players and coaches not to criticize the replacement officials. (We’ll see how Goodell reacts to Woodson’s comments, but given the Commissioner’s heavy hand, expect some sort of punishment.)
“Before preseason started, I think you’re optimistic,” Woodson said. “But it’s almost like a young guy coming into the NFL. The game goes too fast for them.”
And over the weekend, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe tweeted: “The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs. These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it’s kind of embarrassing.”
But despite a few examples, the players have been largely quiet on an issue that directly affects them. Up until now, the most important question has been: if the NFL is so concerned about player safety (or at least the illusion that it is), why is it so willing to turn over officiating duties to officials who aren’t as competent or highly trained? However, now we must ask: where are the players and the National Football League Players Association on this?
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has made comments expressing his disapproval with the replacement referees: “We shouldn’t be at the point where we’ve made great strides in health and player safety, then step back by pulling the best people off the field.” But so far Smith has only voiced his concerns to the NFL. “I’ve made it abundantly clear in a meeting (with the NFL) not long ago how serious we feel the issue is,” Smith said. “It will become more significant as we progress in the season.”
Many have asked where the fans are on the issue of the replacement referees, but if those players who are directly effected by poor officiating aren’t even standing up for themselves, how can fans be expected to do so for them?