- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

Washington receiver Michael Westbrook was playing defense at Redskin Park yesterday.

Westbrook said he did not do anything wrong when he questioned the impartiality of an NFL official who worked the Redskins’ 33-17 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, a game in which the Redskins were called for a season-high 14 penalties. The official, line judge Byron Boston, has a son who plays for the Arizona Cardinals, a team that is competing against Washington for the NFC East championship and a playoff berth.

The NFL is expected to fine Westbrook $10,000 for his comments.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Westbrook said. “I made a statement that was nothing more than a fact. I was saying the guy has to be in an awkward position with his family playing in the same league he’s officiating in. I didn’t accuse him of anything. I didn’t say anything about his integrity. There were some calls we thought weren’t good calls.

“I don’t see what the fine is about. Ain’t I supposed to be able to state facts? Are we trying to hide something?”

On Monday, Westbrook questioned specific calls made by Boston and said: “I knew there was a 12th man on the field. I just didn’t know who it was… . What was he watching? I told you, we had to be playing against 12 people out there.”

Those words did not go unnoticed in Arizona.

Boston’s son, Cardinals rookie receiver David Boston, bristled at Westbrook’s comments.

“I look up to my father,” Boston said. “He’s my hero. Anytime someone questions his integrity, it affects me. My father’s an honest guy. I don’t get angry. I’m disappointed. I would never talk like that about anybody’s father.”

Cardinals coach Vince Tobin said “we’ve got no issue” with Westbrook but then added, “You’re treading on an area that strikes at the heart of the NFL.”

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Westbrook’s comments were still being reviewed and that he wasn’t sure when or if a fine would be levied.

Westbrook said he has been treated unfairly by the NFL before, citing a $4,000 fine for his part in a scuffle in Philadelphia in 1996 during which he claimed he had been a peacemaker, not a participant. So Westbrook is expecting he’ll likely have a hard time drawing pass interference penalties in Sunday’s showdown for the NFC East lead at FedEx Field.

Redskins coach Norv Turner said he wishes the matter hadn’t surfaced.

“Now that the question’s raised, there are a lot of people that have opinions,” Turner said. “If the Redskins as an organization have a feeling [after the season], then it will be handled privately with the league. It was an honest reaction on Michael’s part on Monday. It caught everyone off guard. I don’t know that you gain anything by the reaction. You hope it doesn’t have an effect either way [on Sunday’s game].”

Westbrook’s comments drew a diverse reaction at Redskin Park.

“I don’t like the fact that players can’t express themselves concerning the officials,” said fullback Larry Centers. “They’re part of the game. They have a direct effect on the outcome. We should at least be able to voice our opinions. Look at the plays we got penalties on. I think [Byron Boston] judged the game a little harder than he would have any other game. It would be good if he only officiated AFC games, games that don’t have any effect on our division.”

Quarterback Brad Johnson agreed that he’s not thrilled that Byron Boston works games that involve Arizona’s division rivals.

“It’s a very touchy subject,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate for the player and the dad who’s a referee. He’s a very well-respected referee. He’s not going to call an Arizona game. It could be touchy if he calls an NFC East game. [But] I don’t think he’s what cost us the ballgame. We cost ourselves the ballgame.”

Defensive end Marco Coleman said Boston’s father should be free to do his job.

“He’s been officiating long before his son was on the field,” Coleman said. “When you lose a game, officiating always comes under a microscope. But if you have the same calls and you win, nothing gets made of the officiating. I could care less which games he officiates.”

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