In the wake of the latest and most public gaffe made by the NFL’s replacement officials, we’ve heard lots of things about what NFL players can or might do to protest not just the call that decided the Green Bay-Seattle game but the plethora of questionable calls we’ve seen in the first three weeks.
Late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, depending on where you were when the mess in Seattle was finally and wrongly sorted out, there was a logical thought that this mess would bring the NFL and the regular referees closer to an agreement.
Nothing’s happened yet.
There’s a problem, and it’s not just with what each side is bringing to the bargaining table. Commssioner Roger Goodell and the NFL side know the games are going to go on. Period.
The players can’t strike; that’s clearly written in the new collective bargaining agreement. The thought that even one player would be willing to give up a game check is pretty absurd, too, even if such no-strike rules weren’t written in bold text. No team is going to come out and take a symbolic knee on first down, either, because both teams have too much at stake to sacrifice even one play.
Besides continuing to question the NFL and its leadership in the media, there’s only one thing the players can do this week to protest.
They can refuse to come out for their respective coin tosses.
Maybe that’s disrespecting the game — it certainly would be disrespecting the on-site officials — but if the players are going to talk and tweet so tough, they have to act on it.
At most NFL games both teams are introduced, then brought on to their respective sidelines for the National Anthem. Then — usually a little before 1 o’clock for early Sunday games — the captains are called to midfield. There are brief introductions, the coin is tossed, the start of the game is set and usually not more than 90 seconds later, the ball is kicked off.
If nobody comes out for the toss, the game can’t start.
Missing — or at least delaying — the coin toss would send a message to those sitting in the big chairs for the league that the players are united in their desire to get the real referees back. It’s probably the only realistic option that doesn’t compromise any actual in-game play or rob the fans who pay big dollars to get into NFL stadiums of the full experience.
If captains from both sides refused to come to midfield for the coin toss, the officials would probably have to huddle with one another to see how to proceed. They’d probably have to call upstairs, and TV cameras would definitely catch on. These games (and broadcasts) are scripted down not just to the minute but to the second, starting at least 90 minutes before kickoff, so any type of delay would catch the league’s attention.
The statement would be made.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing the officials’ only recourse at the point neither team sent a player to midfield for the coin toss would be to throw a flag for delay of game — and I don’t even know how that would go. If the players have a unified front, both teams would get that flag. Or maybe neither team would. Or maybe if it happens in Baltimore-Cleveland on Thursday night Golden Tate will get flagged for pass interference during a kickoff on Sunday in St. Louis.
That the penalty going on the wrong team in the wrong team in the wrong stadium doesn’t seem totally out of the question show what a mess this thing is.
The players continuing to complain about it publicly isn’t going to get anything done; frankly, the Twitter bullying and whining they’ve done has gone a little too far. Not showing up or not playing is not even a little bit realistic. If the players want to make a short but strong statement, they simply won’t send any captains to the 50-yard line in Week Four.