It’s time to stop waiting on the NFL to fix this debacle. Roger Goodell has shown he and his league are hell-bent on domination, not a deal.
It’s time to accept that the locked out officials have no reason to come back for anything less than their full demands. This circus is an absolute vindication for the argument they are essential to the game, and they now find themselves, courtesy of the owners who locked them out and the replacement referees who have mangled the job, in a position of absolute negotiating power.
So it falls to us – the fans, and the players – to fix this.
On Wednesday afternoon, there were conflicting reports about what happens next. ESPN reported that a deal is imminent and that the locked-out officials could conceivably be back for Week 4 action. Almost at once, other reports popped up disputing the story.
So let’s keep up the pressure.
After watching Roger Goodell’s NFL sail further toward some anti-promised land, America lost its mind Monday and Tuesday. Twitter went berserk. Reportedly 70,000 voicemails flooded league-office phones after the Monday Night Football game, all that anger and resentment spilling over. Governors, presidential candidates and state senators got involved. Players tweeted out pejorative-laced tirades. A swelling sense of indignation took over.
And the league office? They continued to insult our intelligence, having already insulted our game. Roger Goodell, in clear view of this iceberg of incompetence, kept things sailing full steam ahead.
No apology. No acknowledgment this is out of hand. No nod to the stupidity of the call during Monday night’s game, or how that call fit into the larger context of this season’s officiating horror show. No nod to the fans whose anger is the flip side of a love for football that has made NFL owners, players and league officials barrels of money.
In a 615-word statement explaining the game-ending call that stole a win from the Green Bay Packers and awarded it to the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL included this gem: “The result of the game is final.”
That’s great Roger. Thanks for clearing that up.
It was a finely parsed statement on the fiasco, one that once we cut through the clutter and lawyer-speak and spin translates roughly to: We’re absolutely full of it, not even remotely willing to admit this thing is out of control and betting everything that you love the NFL so much that not even our stupefying level of incompetence can damage the game.
Let’s prove them wrong. Let’s keep forcing them to negotiate – the fans, the players, the media – with anger and attention and outraged voices. Monday night’s Sportscenter was the highest rated in its history, and this story has taken on such weight and significance that the promise of ratings and eyeballs may be another line of defense for Roger Goodell’s unwillingness to fix this.
It’s not our job to boycott the game – not our job to protect it – but the guy charged with that responsibility has abdicated his role. So keep the phone calls coming. Hold onto the outrage. Fill Twitter with your rants and disgust. Tune out. Stay home. Keep the pressure up. Speak with your wallet, your social network, your friends, speak into Goodell’s voicemail (a number easily available on the Internet, courtesy of some angry fans, players and at least one Wisconsin state senator). Keep unloading.
Even the players understand that they need to help fix this mess, and to their credit they’re doing what they can to be part of the solution. That’s not necessarily easy in Goodell’s NFL, where he metes out justice as if it brings him pleasure.
Aaron Rodgers, on his radio show this week, stepped up in a big way when he called the league’s explanation “garbage.”
Rodgers apologized to fans and placed the blame squarely at the NFL’s feet. “The game is being tarnished by an NFL that obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished a little bit. Let’s remember who we are dealing with.”
This came on the same day NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith released a statement to players that began: “The decision by the NFL owners to lockout the referees jeopardizes your health and safety. This decision to remove over 1,500 years of collective experience has simply made the workplace less safe.
“It is the NFL’s duty to provide a workplace that is as safe as possible. The League will want fans, the media and sponsors to talk only about ‘the product’ on the field. We are not product.”
This one interprets roughly as: We’re going to operate under the threat of walking by pointing out (correctly) that this is as much a safety issue as it is an embarrassment.
It’s not the players’ job to make sure NFL officiating operates at the appropriate level. It’s not the fans’ responsibility to manage the game – to manage a multibillion-dollar business with phone calls, boycotts or collective anger.
But Roger Goodell, the guy who actually is supposed to do these things, has failed to get it done. His NFL is sinking.
Only it’s our NFL, too.
So keep calling Goodell and the NFL, every day, to complain. Stay angry. Stay on Twitter and Facebook. And, if it comes to it, accept that soon enough you may need to pick a Sunday to show the NFL what it looks like when its incompetence is met with America doing anything other than watching football.
These are the reasons the NFL has, suddenly, gotten closer to a deal. Don’t let up now.
You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.