Everyone is upset about the NFL’s replacement officials, and the lockout of the NFL Referees’ Association has had such a big impact already this season.
“There’s more than enough examples out there to show that we need the real refs back,” Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.
The Players Association already sent a strongly worded letter to teams last week about the replacements being a safety issue. That might be the extent of the NFLPA’s power, as all three Redskins representatives said nothing had been discussed as far as a potential boycott to protest the replacement officials.
Anything like that would be a last resort.
“I don’t know if we can do that, though. That’s against the CBA, the collective bargaining agreement,” said Alexander, who is the Redskins’ official player rep. “Guys refusing to go out there and play would cost a lot of guys a lot of money as far as feeding their families. I don’t see us ever doing that.”
Alternate representatives Madieu Williams and Reed Doughty followed a similar tack. They’re both aware of the letter but said nothing has been talked about as far as taking action further.
“We’re focused on winning football games. That’s something for the offseason. That’s something that seems to be taken care of in the offseason,” Doughty said. “But I don’t know the legality of that, being a union and not playing. I don’t know the legality of it. As far as, can maybe the owners and the players come together and say, ‘Hey, something needs to get done’ because the way the game is being played right now I don’t think it has the best interest for the players in mind.”
Some calls being incorrect, like the Redskins being assessed 20 yards instead of the correct 15 for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, lead to questions about the integrity of results. The NFLPA’s letter made note of that, and more.
“Coaches and players have complained of numerous errors and failures including: erratic and missed calls on egregious holds and hits, increased skirmishes between players and confusion about game rules,” the letter said. “Many replacements have lost control of games due to inexperience and unfamiliarity with players and rules.”
Redskins linebacker London Fletcher pointed out that there are many “nuances” in the rules that replacement officials sometimes don’t have complete knowledge of. But any argument by players about replacements would have to start with keeping the games safe.
Alexander said there’s some “doubled talking” going on from the NFL as the regular officials are locked out while the league preaches safety.
“There’s been a lot of talk about integrity and safety of the game,” Doughty said. “I think you’ve seen an increasing number of chippiness in the game, of losing control of the game. I think safety and the integrity of the game should be foremost, regardless.”
Other than being vocal about the replacement officials, there’s not much more players can do. If a refusal to play is the only thing that will bring the regular referees back, it’s not something players are considering, at least right now.
“I’m not going to do it. I don’t think too many other guys are going to do it: go out there and refuse to play,” Alexander said. “There’s too much at stake to go out there and do that.”
• Stephen Whyno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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