Continued from page 1

John Nauright, a professor at George Mason University who founded the Center for Research on Sport and Leisure in Society, said it’s not surprising that politicians have seized on the issue of the refs.

He said politicians regularly turn to sports to try to find common ground with voters — and in this case, public sentiment seems to clearly favor the union referees over the NFL.

“Because of its popularity that crosses party lines, it’s one of the few ways anymore politicians can connect with a nonpartisan audience,” Mr. Nauright said. “When it’s sport, it seems the ideology a lot of times goes out the window.”

That could be why both Mr. Obama and Mr. Walker took time out of their day jobs to make their feelings known.

In the case of the president, it was on the same day he delivered major addresses to the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative, and as he came under fire for failing to schedule meetings with other world leaders in New York for the annual U.N. gathering.

Mr. Obama did, however, find time to comment on the game — first on Twitter, then to his press secretary, who relayed the president’s disappointment to reporters, and then in person in the afternoon when he returned to Washington.

“Terrible,” he said of the game. “I’ve been saying for months, we’ve got to get our refs back.”

Mr. Sweeney, the New Jersey state senator, agreed, saying it has become a matter of players’ health. He said the replacement officials have lost control of the games, and players are getting injured.

“I hope people start boycotting games,” he said. “I hope their ratings go down. The only way [the league is] going to recognize something is if it starts affecting them financially.”

It’s unclear how far Mr. Sweeney’s legislation in New Jersey will go.

But Mr. Nauright said it’s not unheard of for politicians to try to shape sports.

He pointed to President Theodore Roosevelt, whose concern for college football players’ safety helped spur the invention of the forward pass.

More recently, Congress pushed Major League Baseball to clean up the steroid era that marred so many records and tarred many of the game’s biggest stars.