Time to throw the flag on the NFL Referees Association

BY foxsports • October 5, 2014

I'm throwing a flag. And it's not reviewable.

I'm calling unsportsmanlike conduct on the NFL Referees Association. 

Did you see this past week that the group that represents the on-field officials, is calling out the league office after two calls were brought into question that the NFL said were incorrect?

I get it ... but on the other hand ... I don't.

The two calls in question -- an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Kansas City's Husain Abdullah for sliding to his knees in prayer after scoring a touchdown and the other, a blind-side hit on Philadelphia's Nick Foles by Washington's Chris Baker -- were both said to have been incorrect by league officials. 

The union countered on the Abdullah call ...

"The player was flagged, correctly, for the slide on his knees in the end zone, not for going to the ground in a prayerful gesture," said former ref Scott Green in the Referees Association's statement. "On-field officials are aware of the prayer provision and respect the right of players of all faiths to express themselves."


The union also stated: "In the last two weeks, two penalties that were called in games that drew national attention were publicly announced to be in error by the League office, however the Officiating Department later graded the calls as correct. This has caused confusion for NFL officials as to what the League does and doesn't want called."

Not true. 

The hit on Foles was graded as correct, but the Abdullah play was graded as "Support Only." So what does that mean? 

Support only means "we're going to support you because we understand why you called it, but DON'T call it again." That's not the same as correct. 

But the call on Baker is where things got really sticky. The NFL's VP of Football Operations, Troy Vincent, said that "Baker didn't do anything wrong with that hit."

Again, not true. 

It was a cheap shot at the very least and I know the NFL doesn't want quarterbacks being blown up.  

I understand the concern of what the union is highlighting here, that people within the league office have made statements that are not consistent with how the plays were graded by the officiating department. That is confusing. 

What I don't understand is why the union would make a public statement that really serves no purpose ... and is actually inaccurate. 

The inaccurate part has to do with the Abdullah play. The officials acknowledged they called the penalty for Abdullah sliding on his knees before going into position to pray.  That's what they called. And that was understood. 

I can certainly understand why that was called. But I also understand that the league doesn't want any type of religious display to be penalized. 

Here's my thinking on this: support only is not a negative grade, but it allows you to go with the official if something is questionable. Because the union essentially attempted to embarrass the league and the officiating dept., the support only grades that actually give the officials the benefit of the doubt would likely disappear. And when it comes to the benefit of the doubt, the call would now be incorrect. 

So why would the union send this out publicly? Nothing good can come of it. It makes everyone look bad over just two plays. 

In my nine years as the VP of Officiating for the NFL, I can't tell you how many times I told clubs that I didn't agree with a call, but I gave the officials a correct call because of unusual circumstances or it was a call that was so tough that it seemed unreasonable to downgrade them. I called it a marginal call. They now call it support only. 

I do know this. If I was still there, my "marginal'" grades wouldn't be so marginal anymore. They'd be nonexistent. 

All the press release did was bring more negative attention to the officials -- and the officiating dept.

Nobody wins. 

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