After Sunday’s loss to the Giants, Eagles quarterback Mike Vick embarked on an “I’m not complainin’ . . . I’m just complainin’“-style rant regarding the lack of calls for roughing the passer. Some thought Vick’s comments could get him fined. But the league office says that there will be no repercussions against Vick.
“We did not regard it as ‘criticism,’” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via email. “He made an observation and raised a question for which his club can obtain answers.”
Aiello also supplied the precise language of the Game Operations manual, regarding the criticism of officials.
“Criticism of Game Officials or complaints about opponents’ tactics outside the rules must be made only to the League office in a written report sent via email or fax following each game,” Aiello said. “Public airing of such matters, whether directly or indirectly, during or after a game, verbally or by use of film or videotape, on or off the record, is prohibited by the NFL Constitution and Bylaws and will not be tolerated. This includes abusive language and profanity aimed at Officials during games. Any violation will be subject to a fine, with the dollar amount to be determined by the Commissioner.”
Reasonable minds may differ on whether Vick was criticizing the officials. Though most of it was couched in passive-aggressive terms, the question raised by Vick constitutes the criticism, and Vick’s agenda seemed to be to put the officials on the defensive in future games, so that maybe they’ll throw a flag when he’s hit.
Still, Vick was blunt. He said he was hit late, but there was no flag. He said he “absolutely” doesn’t get calls other quarterbacks get. He said the “refs gotta do their job as well.”
The good news is that this situation provides some clarity on the question of whether players can be fined for criticizing officials. In the past, there was confusion as to whether players could be fined for criticism that didn’t attack the integrity of the officials. The language quoted above contains no such exception, which means that coaches and players stand on the same footing when it comes to the criticism of officials.
If, of course, their words are interpreted by the league as criticism.