In a move that calls into question the independence of the league-owned media conglomerate known generally as “NFL Media,” a key story regarding the ongoing officiating lockout has been removed from the NFL.com website — and a reference to that story has been scrubbed from a related article.
On Sunday, Albert Breer of NFL Network reported on the existence an internal officiating memo for Week One that, among other things, slammed the door on the practice of replacement officials working for individual teams during midweek practices. A source with no connection to the NFL or NFL.com or NFL Media pointed out to PFT on Monday that the story no longer appears on the NFL.com website. (The link redirects to a page with links to news items.)
The NFL has not yet responded to our request for comment. In the interim, however, we noticed that a reference (and link) to the officiating memo in the separate story from Breer regarding the official in the Seahawks-Cardinals game with Seahawks ties has been removed.
In the past, we’ve made casual reference to the reality that NFL.com and NFL Network necessarily operate within an inherent conflict of interest because those media companies primarily if not exclusively cover the very entity that owns them. This is the first tangible example (that we’ve noticed) of the NFL possibly censoring the content on NFL.com or NFL Network.
UPDATE 3:29 p.m. ET: The link has now been resurrected; however, the reference to it from the Seahawks-Cardinals story has not been replaced. Said NFL Network spokesman Alex Riethmiller, “Not sure what the issue was previously, but the link to the page you are referring to on NFL.com is working.” We’ve specifically asked for more details on “what the issue was previously.”
UPDATE 3:35 p.m. ET: “It was never taken down,” Riethmiller said in a followup email. “As the page went from our homepage and headlines to the news pages and now to Breer’s archive page, all the while being edited the way all news stories are, the link could have hit some tech hurdles on this end.” We’ve specifically asked for more details on why reference to it was removed from the Seahawks-Cardinals story.