You’re a football official and the last thing you want to be is part of a game story. Especially when the game is for the right to play in the Super Bowl.
Officials are at their best when fans enjoy the game and talk about team and player highlights. If you’re an official and looking for, “wow – that guy in stripes made the most awesome call,” you’ve made a wrong turn.
Unfortunately, we found that some of Sunday’s NFL conference championship officials required GPSs. They headlined newspapers and sports talk shows hours after the final whistles, and I anticipate the conversation won’t go away anytime soon.
Thanks to video replay, anyone in a stadium or at home can see what happens on the field, often better than officials. Sometimes it happens right in front of the stripely dressed and they mistake the call. Or they don’t call a penalty. Face it – it’s a tough job. Until you’ve been on a college or professional football sideline, you have no idea how fast and forceful the action flies.
People have asked me as a publicist, what would suggest the NFL do to tamp down criticism of officials that started during the regular season and was magnified x 1000 during the conference title games. In an ideal world, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, along with head of NFL officiating, Al Riveron, would record a video statement to apologize to teams and fans that errors were made and that efforts are already underway to keep them from happening in the future. While a public admission may not soothe those throwing proverbial bricks at walls today, it may add some solace to fans that feel that the multi-billion dollar league they support cares about well, the integrity of the game. I suggest that people in decision-making roles at the NFL express their shared frustration that will result in sooner-than-later discussions with the competition committee and will be addressed with those selected to officiate the Super Bowl in Atlanta in two weeks.
Criticism isn’t coming just from fans. The optics span coast to coast. There is Riveron’s alleged call to New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton to admit missed helmet-to-helmet and interference calls; Fox Sports rules analyst and former head of NFL officials Mike Pereira told Rich Eisen “It’s not a good world to be in” when asked what’s likely being talked about at the NFL offices; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley’s posted (doctored) photo that makes fun of the no-calls from which his team benefitted; an eye doctor is offering NFL officials free eye exams.
Officiating in any sport is not and will never been an exact science. When you have the most popular and prosperous league in the country, however, I think you owe fans, players and coaches assurances that missed plays and statistics aside, egregious calls or no-calls will result in dismissals, suspensions, better education and most of all, change.
This topic will continue through Super Bowl week and likely beyond, but the volume will come down if the league owns the mistakes.
©Gail Sideman, gpublicity 2019