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Fine the referee, not the coach

Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 11:09

It may seem like a simple concept at first glance: Embarrass a professional football referee on national television and get fined by commissioner Roger Goodell.

But if the referee is not a professional, should the fine still exist?
Sunday Night Football’s Ravens vs. Patriots game was a highly anticipated battle between two of the best teams in the American Football Conference  (AFC) and should have been a rematch of the 2011 AFC Championship.

Instead, it became a spectacle of the problems with replacement referees, a fiasco that reached a crescendo when the sold-out crowd at M&T Bank Stadium began an expletive-laden chant directed toward the officials who called 24 total penalties between the teams.

During the final play of the game, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker attempted a 27-yard field goal for a chance to win the game, an attempt that soared toward the right upright and passed over. The field goal was called good. Patriots coach Bill Belicheck ran to an official to request a replay, and made contact with the referee, which resulted in a $50,000 fine Wednesday.

A week earlier, Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio were fined $30,000 and $25,000 respectively for their actions towards referees on Sept. 17.

Both Fox and Del Rio were shouting and arguing with referees throughout the game, including a point in the game in which Denver was flagged for 12 men on the field, a call which the officials incorrectly insisted was not reviewable.

With $130,000 in fines sent to the NFL league office in the last two weeks, the question arises: is complaining about incorrect refereeing a fineable offense? If the league is willing to suspend coaches and players from the New Orleans Saints for the “sanctity of the game,” should officials who are affecting that same sanctity be protected?
Though players and coaches are not without blame — including 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh who bullied his way to two illegal challenges in a loss to the Vikings — it seems as if the only way for a coach to get the
attention of a referee making an incorrect call is to argue with him until the official reconsiders.

If protecting the sanctity of the game and its players is a priority for Goodell, maybe referees should be fined for making egregious mistakes that affect a football game that a fan is paying $50 or more to attend.

How about a $50,000 fine on the official who claimed Golden Tate and M.D. Jennings had simultaneous
possession of the ball in the final play of Monday night’s 14-12 Seattle win, even though replay reviews and photos showed a clear interception for Jennings? And a $15,000 fine on the referee who missed a blatant offensive pass interference call on Tate, a call that the NFL itself admitted was missed and should have ended the game?
It’s easy to dole out penalties to people who are ruining the sanctity of a professional sports league that millions of Americans hold dear to their hearts.

With the NFL coming to terms with the league’s professional officials late Wednesday night, the
replacement referees are on their way out.  But Goodell’s protection of them and their inconsistencies is not a positive sign for the future of the league.


Rames Ali is a junior majoring in mass communications.

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